Monday, September 5, 2005

Controversy surfacing over redevelopment of Suisun City waterfront

From Daily Republic // Monday, Sept. 5, 2005
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - A proposal to expand Adams Marine's boatyard into an adjacent parcel is still Suisun City's favored plan for one of the waterfront's last undeveloped parcels.

The City Council is expected to further that relationship Tuesday night when it votes to formally negotiate with Adams Marine owner Bill Adams should his proposal be approved by the city's Redevelopment Agency.

That does not sit well with three other local developers who want to put eight live-work homes on the parcel and said the city led them on for almost a year before news about the Adams Marine development surfaced publicly.

"We submitted our proposal three weeks before Adams did," said Shane Ballman, one of the developers.

Adams said he has been trying to buy that land from the city for seven years and has been angling to expand his business there long before Ballman, James Jensen and Jim Pitcher showed up.

Both sides have already had one showdown in June before the City Council and Ballman, Jensen and Pitcher are still trying to push the city to give them an equal shot.

"That is all we ask," Jensen said.

It is something that Suisun City's downtown area has not seen for some time - two groups of developers vying against each other for the right to develop one piece of waterfront land.

Suisun City officials have put the proposal by Adams in the front seat on the contention that he already has an existing business adjacent to the parcel in question.

While saying he is interested in any proposal for the land, Mayor Jim Spering had said he would not do so at the expense of an existing business such as Adams Marine.

Adams contends his project would generate sales tax revenue that city leaders say they badly need.

Ballman and Jensen say the city has been showing Adams favoritism despite promises to them by then-Redevelopment Director Randy Starbuck that they would get equal time.

They pointed out that Suisun City's Redevelopment Agency holds a mortgage on land owned by Adams in Lake County. The mortgage was sold to the redevelopment agency by another lender in 2000, according to the Lake County Assessor's Office.

Adams' business has been a retail money maker for the town, according to the city, some years being its single biggest source of sales tax revenue.

For Suisun City, whose revenues have been flat for years while costs of running the town have steadily risen, bringing in projects that generate more sales tax is a top priority.

Adams said he is also working to buy the land Adams Marine sits on which is presently leased to him by the city's Redevelopment Agency.

If the city goes with Adams proposed expansion, Ballman and Jensen promised to take legal action and demand that the city's dealings with Adams be investigated.

Jensen and Ballman said they have been talking with Suisun City's Redevelopment Agency since early 2004 about their live-work housing project.

They had also shown Suisun City business groups a variation of their proposed development that has a lighthouse which would have a bait shop and private residence.

The two argue that putting their lighthouse on part of the parcel would be doing the city a favor by allowing it to save money by not having to build a lighthouse at the head of the slough.

A proposal to build a restaurant, kayak rental store and office space on the waterside land that Adams doesn't use has not moved forward since it was announced earlier this year by Fairfield real estate investor John Scaff.

Scaff could not be reached for comment on where his proposal now stands.

Adams wants to expand his business another 85 feet, adding 5,600 square feet with an upstairs office and more service bays. He is also looking at putting another marine-related business in the building.

"The harbor is going to expand eventually, and we want to be a part of that," Adams said.

Adams said his business will bring in more sales tax revenue and create more jobs. The project is expected to cost $1.7 million, both buying the land and building on it.

As for the competing developers, he said their proposal is not compatible at all for land that is located next to his existing business. Once his business fires up boat engines for testing, the homeowners will "fire up the complaints."

The Suisun City Council and Redevelopment Agency meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Suisun City Council chamber at 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Who: Suisun City Council
What: Approving a developer selection process for several city-owned parcels including one proposed for an expansion of Adams Marine.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Suisun City Council chambers, Suisun City Hall, 701 Civic Center Blvd.
Info: 421-7300

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