ROHNERT PARK – There has been a mixed reaction from people in the building industry regarding the signing of a Community Benefits Agreement between the developer of Sonoma Mountain Village and a coalition of labor, housing and environmental groups as to the labor standards, housing, regional impact of development and green building standards for the innovative project on the 200-acre former Agilent Technologies site.
Some have argued that this will set an unfair precedent for future development, while others say it is a good way to avoid what could become issues down the line for developers.
“I don’t want there to be an issue of binding nongovernmental contracts having to be signed every time a developer wants to build,” said Lisa Schaffner, executive director of Sonoma County Alliance, an organization whose members include business, labor and public safety.
In the works for more than two years, the Community Benefits Agreement is the first of its kind between a developer and the Accountable Development Coalition.
The agreement lays out a number of terms.
In addition to agreeing to comply with living wage ordinances and “union neutrality” on hiring, there will be 15 percent inclusionary housing onsite. The developer has agreed to meet with the cities of Cotati and Rohnert Park to discuss any community opportunities and concerns. The development will comply with Rohnert Park’s Green Building Ordinance.
There are other policies related to transportation, Environmental Impact Report review, land use, water use, open space protection, sewage and water treatment and commitment to the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit rail and trail project.
Additionally, Sonoma Mountain Village will pay the coalition a one-time $5,000 contribution upon ratification of the agreement and will contribute $6,000 “upon groundbreaking of the residential construction beginning on the development, and each January 15th thereafter during construction of the development.”
This unrestricted donation will go to administrative costs, said Marlene Dehlinger, director of the ADC. It is intended, she said, to defray the costs of staff time for the coalition.
Seeing as the development could take up to 15 years, according to Jack Buckhorn, who is on the executive team of that coalition, this could be close to $100,000 in total.
One of the issues raised is that the development is private. Typically when a CBA is reached, a main reason for a coalition like the ADC to get involved is that public money is used, and therefore it believes the developer should be held accountable to the community.
“Projects that are publicly funded are on a whole different level,” Ms. Schaffner said.
She said she is concerned that there will be a precedent set that anyone wanting to build in this area will be forced to go through this kind of agreement.
“I don’t want a sign that reads ‘closed for business’ on the county,” she added.
But, said Kirstie Moore, development manager of Codding Enterprises, “We are not an average kind of developer.
“I don’t think it is really appropriate to think of this as a blueprint that everyone should follow,” she said.