VMT/Orcem: City Council frustrated, impatient, proposal on its last legs?

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor –  More:   View the Attorney General’s scathing 13-page letter.  For opponents’ perspective, see Fresh Air Vallejo.  For official project documents, see Vallejo’s City website.   – R.S.]

City Council frustrated about update on status of Vallejo Marine Terminal

By John Glidden, March 14, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Frustration ruled Tuesday night’s Vallejo City Council meeting, as councilors and community members expressed irritation over the lack of significant communication from the principals of Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT).

The meeting discussion was the latest in the long saga surrounding the VMT/Orcem project, which is being proposed for development in South Vallejo.

“How much longer do we go?” asked Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan. “We need to put this to bed once and for all.”

City Hall previously said and reiterated its position on Tuesday that staff was ready on March 1 to release the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the VMT/Orcem project but the lack of needed signatures and pertinent information from VMT’s new principals — William Gilmartin and Alan Varela — caused the city to check that decision.

Vallejo City Attorney Claudia Quintana said the new principal’s failure to sign an assignment and assumption agreement makes it unclear who is making the decisions for VMT. In addition, the city previously claimed VMT has failed to provide answers to Vallejo’s data requests for the Barge Implementation Strategy and Fleet Management Plan.

In Match 2017 the Vallejo Planning Commission rejected VMT/Orcem’s application to build a a deep-water terminal (VMT) and cement facility (Orcem) on the same 31 acres at 790 and 800 Derr St. next to the Mare Island Strait in South Vallejo.

The companies appealed the decision and later that year a divided council ordered staff to complete the environmental report.

There were also questions asked about who actually owns the land, the city of Vallejo or VMT? Quintana said that in certain documents VMT has argued that it owns land belonging to the city. This is the same area of land which has been leased to Orcem.

Sampayan’s frustration was joined by councilmembers Robert McConnell and Katy Miessner.

McConnell inquired if Orcem has standing in an appeal, even though it doesn’t have control of the proposed project site.

He also asked a series of questions that Quintana said she couldn’t answer until the city could meet with VMT and Orcem representatives together.

McConnell questioned that if some of the land may be owned by Solano County, did the county Planning Commission need to review the project? What kind of cleanup was completed on site when the previous owners left and has the city of Vallejo ever inspected the property?

McConnell wonder aloud if the city has lost out on other opportunities to develop the land while VMT fails to signal if it wants to have its appeal heard.

“If there were such opportunities that were passed over by the city of Vallejo, it may well be prejudicial to us, as well,” he said.

He also asked about VMT itself, saying he conducted an online search of the business, which yielded little results.

“Who are we dealing with here?” McConnell asked.

It appears that VMT’s website is no longer active.

Both Varela and Gilmartin work for the Oakland-based ProVen Management, a general engineering contracting firm started by Varela. The Times-Herald called the Oakland-based business on Wednesday and was told that both men were “out of the office.” A voicemail left with the business was not returned. Emails to Gilmartin, Varela and their attorney Krista Kim were not returned on Wednesday.

City staff said Tuesday that they have reached out to VMT over 40 times during the past two months, trying to get the necessary actions completed.

Meanwhile, Miessner expressed her concerns with Vallejo’s use of Stantec Consulting Services, to update the project’s Environmental Justice Analysis. The council agreed to use Stantec earlier this year.

She read from a blog shared on the Stantec website “Watch out Nimby! You have an enemy…”

Miessner said she would prefer the city not use Stantec. She called into question the company’s objectivity and possible ties to the cement industry.

She also called Orcem’s recent paid advertisements in the Times-Herald as “bizarre.”

“Let’s put an end to the delays,” Orcem’s most recent quarter-page ad reads. “Let the public see the FEIR. Let the City Council vote.”

“If I were a developer, trying to work with the city, I don’t think I’d be insulting the staff I’m trying to work with. It’s very bizarre to me,” she said.

She also said VMT has yet to fund its portion of the Environmental Justice Analysis report, and execute the fourth amendment to the reimbursement agreement required for consultants working on the FEIR to finish their work. VMT’s share of EJA is about $22,778.

City officials said during the meeting, and again on Wednesday that Orcem deposited its share for the EJA but had yet to release the funds so they could be used.

“Of course it’s available,” Steve Bryan, president of Orcem Americas, said on Wednesday about the funds. “I sent them the money.”

Bryan said he wants the accurate and complete FEIR to be released for public review.

“We paid for a complete one,” he added. “I’m confident it will go out.”

In addition, Bryan said he has spoken with VMT recently and he confirmed “they are going to answer” the city.

Quintana said the city is looking to release the environmental documents as informational-only until VMT provides the needed information and signatures.

On Wednesday, the city sent VMT and Orcem, along with their respective legal teams, a letter asking for a sit down between the three sides.

In the letter, staff write that the council has given them 90 days to return “with a resolution to these issues and a determination as to whether the appeal and FEIR will be processes as previously requested or the the VMT/Orcem project application has been abandoned.”

Vice Mayor Pippin Dew-Costa, and councilmembers Rozzana Verder-Aliga, and Hakeem Brown were all absent from Tuesday’s council meeting as they attended a conference in Washington D.C.