Vallejo deep-water terminal and cement facility in limbo as city deadline passes

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor –  Previous good news: Vallejo’s City Manager raised eyebrows about ORCEM’S deceptive paid advertising, and the CA Attorney General submitted a scathing 13-page letter.  Let’s hope Vallejo will DENY THIS PROPOSED CATASTROPHIC PROJECT!  For more critical perspective, see Fresh Air Vallejo.  For official project documents, see Vallejo’s City website.   – R.S.]

City leaders to meet; council to get progress update March 12

By John Glidden, March 1, 2019 at 6:40 pm

A controversial plan to open a modern deep-water terminal and cement facility next to the Mare Island Strait in South Vallejo appears to be at a standstill, again.

Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) missed Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline to provide City Hall with required information needed to complete the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the VMT/Orcem California, LLC project proposed for development on the old General Mills plant site, Vallejo’s Assistant City Attorney Shannon Eckmeyer confirmed to the Times-Herald.

“We will not be releasing the project’s FEIR at this time,” Eckmeyer said by phone.

She further confirmed city staff would be meeting internally to determine the next steps. The Vallejo City Council will receive a progress report on the project’s status during the council’s March 12 meeting, Eckmeyer said.

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said he was disappointed in the lack of an official response from VMT.

“We can’t come to any kind of decision without their information,” he said by phone after the 5 p.m. deadline. “We’re in a difficult spot.”

Sampayan confirmed city leaders will be meeting next week to consider various legal issues with the lack of communication from VMT.

“We don’t want to incur any liability,” Sampayan explained.

Tired of waiting, Vallejo sent a notice on Monday that if VMT didn’t respond by 5 p.m., Friday, the city would deem VMT abandoned the project.

That letter requested multiple items including documentation showing William Gilmartin and Alan Varela have assumed all responsibilities of the business from the original VMT principal Blaise Fettig and former past project manager Matt Fettig.

Gilmartin was announced as VMT newest partner in November 2018, joining Varela, who has been a partner in VMT since 2016. Both men work for the Oakland-based ProVen, a general engineering contracting firm started by Varela.

The three-page letter also asked VMT to fund its portion of the Environmental Justice Analysis report, at about $22,778, and execute the fourth amendment to the reimbursement agreement required for consultants working on the FEIR to finish their work.

“For weeks, the city has requested that you either sign or produce an existing assignment and assumption agreement that identifies the real party in interest for purposes of processing the appeal and permits,” the city wrote. “As you might surmise, we wonder who is the applicant and real party in interest for purposes of indemnifying the city in the event the project’s decision results in a lawsuit against the city.”

One of the last official communications to the city from VMT came in January when VMT sent a single page letter stating that Varela, Gilmartin, and attorneys Krista Kim and Michael M.K. Sebree were authorized to speak for the business.

“VMT is concerned that there may be correspondence with VMT that we have not seen nor read and possibly future correspondence that we need to respond to,” Gilmartin wrote in the letter addressed to Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff.

Attempts to reach Gilmartin, Varela, and Kim by press time on Friday were unsuccessful.

In a Feb. 12 email to VMT and Orcem representatives and their respective legal teams, Eckmeyer explained the city cannot separate the two businesses from the joint application and appeal.

“There still appears to be unclear communication between your clients, and the city has the obligation to treat the VMT/Orcem project as a joint application and joint appeal. We cannot separate the interests of Orcem and VMT and process separate requests,” she wrote. “As you are all aware, VMT is the landowner and Orcem is the tenant, and have up until this point, processed all entitlement requests items jointly.”

VMT has applied to open a modern deep-water terminal, while Orcem is seeking approval to operate a cement facility with both projects located on 31 acres at 790 and 800 Derr St.

The project has caused consternation with a segment of the Vallejo community, which argues the project will pollute the immediate area and harm local residents. Both VMT and Orcem deny those allegations, while also stating that the project will provide jobs and tax revenue for the city.

The Vallejo Planning Commission voted 6-1 in 2017 to reject the VMT/Orcem project, agreeing with City Hall that the project would have a negative effect on the neighborhood, that it would impact traffic around the area and the proposed project was inconsistent with the city’s waterfront development policy. The project also has a degrading visual appearance of the waterfront, City Hall said at the time.

City officials argued in 2017 that since a rejection was being recommended, a FEIR was not required.

Orcem and VMT appealed the Planning Commission decision, and in June 2017 when reviewing the appeal, a majority of the council directed City Hall to complete the impact report.

The project’s FEIR was expected to be released last year until leaders received a 13-page letter from Erin Ganahl, deputy attorney general for the State of California, writing that the project’s draft final environmental impact report (DFEIR), an Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA), and the Revised Air Analysis were misleading.

“The environmental documents for the project fail to provide adequate legal support for the city of Vallejo to approve the project,” Ganahl wrote on behalf of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The DFEIR fails to adequately disclose, analyze, and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the project; the EJA improperly concludes that the project would not disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, and thus misleads decision makers and the public by minimizing the projects significant environmental justice concerns.”

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