Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Marathon meeting fails to yield decision

Forgive me if I don't quite have the energy for a long, thorough post on this, but there seemed to be enough public interest that an update was in order.

Tuesday night's Patterson City Council meeting — one of the longest in recent memory, by some accounts — included more than THREE HOURS of legal arguments, public comment and discussion about the Del Puerto Health Care Center's proposed move to the Keystone Pacific Business Park and the appeal of that move by the health care district's current landlord, John Ramos. The meeting in its entirety lasted more than five hours and stretched past midnight (I'm assuming ... I left at about 11:45 p.m. with other agenda items still to come).

There were a lot of very technical legal interpretations of zoning ordinances, CEQA law and the developer agreement between Keystone and the city. There were a lot of impassioned pleas from patients, providers and health care district board members about the need for a bigger, better facility. The arguments on both sides were convincing.

As midnight approached, council members were still discussing whether they had a solid, impartial enough interpretation of the zoning laws and whether Ramos' motivesa matter of some debate — should be part of the discussion.

In the end, the council decided to solicit the opinion of a fifth lawyer — after hearing from attorneys for Ramos, the district and Keystone, as well as City Attorney George Logan — voting to seek out a land-use attorney while promising to come forth with a decision at the next council meeting.

It appeared as though the decision became more complicated as each argument was heard, and it doesn't appear likely this is going to be truly settled anytime soon. If the council votes for one side, the other could sue. If the council votes to amend the developer agreement and require CEQA approval, it could add precious months to the project for a district whose current lease expires in less than a year.

John Saiz will have a story on this in Saturday's Irrigator and probably on the Web site sometime this week. Stay tuned.