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Commission approves EIR for Calexico International Center

November 27, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Despite reservations of some commissioners, the city Planning Commission voted 3-2 to approve the environmental impact report for the Calexico International Center.

The center is a huge multi-use development project planned for the southwest corner of Jasper Road and Highway 111.

By around 2013, a Burlingame-based developer, Wen-I Chang, hopes to have finished building a hotel, an RV park, apartments, commercial space and a golf course on his 217-acre property. The first phase of the project, including a gas station, hotel and RV park, could be completed by 2003.

During Monday's Planning Commission meeting, commissioners peppered Chang and his associates with questions about fiscal and environmental impacts of the project.

Commissioners Arturo Selwick, Richard Romero and Armando Zuniga wanted to know how the project would affect the city's general fund.

The city pays for Police Department and Fire Department salaries with general fund dollars.

The city's development consultant, Brian Mooney of San Diego, did not have any specific financial data to account for the effect it would have on the fund, although he said the numbers he had showed a net-positive benefit for the city.

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Romero said he couldn't support the project without specific numbers.

"Unless I see it I'm not going to believe it," he said.

City Planning Director Ricardo Hinojosa said the project was reviewed and approved years ago by the city's now-departed financial director.

The center has been in the planning stages since 1998.

Romero said the project needs to be analyzed for how it would affect the city's ability to provide fire and police services and whether the fiscal impacts would be "shift or new."

For instance, "shift" impacts would occur if the hotel brings more rooms to the city but occupancy rates in other city hotels drop.

Mooney said the commission was only being asked to rule on the environmental report, the rezoning and the general plan amendment for annexation.

He said a more complete fiscal analysis would be ready for future discussions of the project's tentative maps and final approval.

"You're not approving the development plan tonight," he said.

Commissioner Arturo Selwick asked Chang if he planned to ask the city for money to build two streets that would allow access into the center.

"Do you intend to ask the city to put in the extension of Sunset Boulevard and Fiesta Parkway?" Selwick asked.

Chang's associates said he expected "participation on the city's part" but had not finalized the exact cost of that participation yet.

Selwick asked Chang and his associates if they had a plan of what they were going to ask for from the city.

"This is a capitalistic country. Any money we spend reduces the amount we can use to increase the quality of life for the residents," Selwick said.

Chang took to the podium and said he had a conversation with city Public Works Director Mariano Martinez years ago when "Mart" asked him if he was ready to go with the center.

Chang said Martinez told him there was $1.5 million available for public infrastructure at the time.

"Any opportunity like that can help. There needs to be recognition of the sharing," Chang said.

That $1.5 million has been earmarked for various street improvements.

Earlier in the meeting, Chang said he would pay his fair share for infrastructure improvements.

"I hope (the) city will be open-minded. What we say will be reasonable," Chang said.

Mooney said the wrangling over the cost of improvements could occur later in the form of some other kind of agreement.

Chang said he will negotiate a developer's agreement before drawing up tentative maps of the project.

There has been no discussion of how long that negotiation might take or how much money will be required to finance the construction of streets to connect the center with Cole Road and on-site improvements to Scaroni Road.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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