Irvine leaders, at the last city council meeting, lauded the approval of their Irvine Business Complex vision plan as having resolved many of the roadblocks that stood in the plan’s way, such as legal challenges from neighboring cities and a thumbs down from the airport land-use commission.
But opposition to the plan might creep back up, and this time it could come from the plan’s developers, who badly wanted the deal to go through.
At the last council meeting, according to Irvine Business Complex landowner representative Pamela Sapetto, developers were willing to stay quiet about $75 million in possible developer fees for infrastructure improvements and mitigation measures. But as discussions about the fees arise in the next couple of months, expect to see more “participation” from developers, Sapetto said.
“Businesses understand the need to improve IBC to create a more livable environment for new development,” Sapetto said. “However, they are concerned about how that will be paid for.”
Infrastructure improvements developers may be on the hook for include a number of pedestrian bridges, a creek walk, sidewalk improvements and a library. Developers are also possibly on the hook for the plan’s mitigation measures, such as a $3.6 million road improvement agreement with neighboring Newport Beach.
Businesses are waiting to see how much of the cost will be covered by a range of possible funding alternatives, including Measure M funds and state and federal grants, Sapetto said. She also said that once the city has settled on a plan, which could include having developers foot the bill for the entire $75 million, developers will decide on their next steps.
“I hope it’s going to be more than a developer fee program,” Sapetto said.
At least one council member has expressed shock at the scale of the possible developer fees and the fact that developers are waiting so long to oppose them.
Councilwoman Christina Shea, who was absent during the council’s vote on the plan, said she will voice her concerns about the developer fees at Tuesday’s council meeting, when the vision plan will come up for a final vote.
Although Shea is critical of the council’s decision to put such a burden on developers, she’s also upset that the developers haven’t come out against the plan.
“I am very critical of the business community and the developers for not coming to the council and asking: ‘How are we going to make this profitable?'” Shea said. She added, “I’ve come to a point — after so many battles — that if the businesses take this rolling over, why should I vote no?”
— ADAM ELMAHREK