The Lodi City Council will consider annexing 30 acres of farmland south of the city for offices and commercial retail space at its meeting tonight.
Developer Mike Carouba has submitted plans to develop the southwest corner of Harney and West lanes, which is currently occupied by strawberry fields.
The council will decide whether to approve the project and annex the land. If it is approved tonight, the project will be sent to the county's Local Agency Formation Commission, which also has to approve it.
The plans show five new office buildings that take up a total of 179,200 square feet, including a medical office with a laboratory. The plans also include 103,350 square feet of commercial space, including a bank and restaurant.
Carouba originally submitted the plans several years ago, but in August 2009, he told city staff he wanted to put the project on hold because a tenant backed out. He also said he wanted to wait until the city's General Plan was complete.
The large document is a blueprint for development throughout the community. The 30 acres of farmland is not in the city's boundaries, but it is included in the General Plan's sphere of influence, which is where the city intends to grow over the next 20 years.
The Lodi Planning Commission approved the project in March, but it has faced opposition.
Citizens for Open Government originally opposed the project, saying the city needs to do more studies on the project's potential effect on the environment, including traffic, greenhouse gases and air quality.
The group, which also protested against a Walmart Supercenter, dropped its opposition to Carouba's project after coming to an agreement with the developer before the Planning Commission meeting.
The project will include a bike rack and an electric vehicle charging stations as part of the agreement with Citizens for Open Government, Carouba said.
Paul Nicolini, of Kaehler Dairy on Armstrong Road, also spoke out at the Planning Commission meeting, arguing that a commercial and retail space will not be compatible with agriculture in the area.
The Kaehler family has started a website protesting the project: www.saveourstrawberries.com. On the site, it says that the city's environmental reports are incomplete, and they will gather other landowners in the area to fight the development moving forward.
At the meeting, the council will consider:
- Approving the South Hutchins Annexation project, which includes annexation and pre-zoning.
- Certifying a mitigated negative declaration and mitigation monitoring and reporting program as adequate environmental documentation for the project.
- Directing staff to prepare and submit an annexation application to the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission.