Last minute deal falls apart as Council goes ahead with proposed plan.Wednesday night, the Santa Clarita City Council approved plans for the Henry Mayo/G&L Realty campus expansion, after a late breaking compromise deal could not be finalized in time.
With Mayor Bob Kellar casting the lone dissention, the expansion plan passed at the end of a 7 hour meeting and has set the stage for the possible construction of 340,000 square feet of new additions including three medical office buildings, three above-ground parking structures, one subterranean parking structure, and one new hospital inpatient building.
According to the plan as passed, a certain level of construction progress on the inpatient building is required before the third medical office building can be built. Specifically, significant progress on the foundation of the building would have to be complete, and steel rebar would have to be erected.
That condition was crafted last year after the Council asked for more of a guarantee that the not-for-profit Henry Mayo would build the new inpatient building. Before that, Henry Mayo and their for-profit partner G&L could technically build all medical office buildings and elect not to contribute to the inpatient plans, although they denied any intention to do so.
The expansion plans had been steadily opposed by a resident group called Smart Growth SCV during four years of Planning Commission and City Council wrangling. That long debate did prompt a significant decrease in the expansion scale, although it had not reached a point of mutual acceptance by both the Henry Mayo/G&L and Smart Growth.
Smart Growth had most recently been asking for stronger language forcing a greater level of construction progress on the inpatient building before plans for a third medical office building could materialize.
“You simply can’t pass this until there’s some stronger language in here,” said David Gauny, head of Smart Growth SCV.
Smart Growth nearly got their wish, as a separate compromise plan was tentatively agreed to by Hospital CEO Roger Seaver and Gauney Tuesday night, which included the hospital making the following concessions:
- Lowering of the height of the planned hospital inpatient building from five stories to four.
- Including stronger wording limiting the construction of the third medical office building until the complete foundation of the proposed inpatient building is laid and the entire steel structure for the first floor is in place.
In return, Henry Mayo/G&L asked for a promise in writing that Smart Growth SCV would not enter into any law suits against the hospital.
The understanding was agreed upon by all sides, and Smart Growth SCV attempted to have their attorney review it. Gauny said that this was necessary to ensure that the language of the agreement protected the group from law suits that could be potentially filed by people or organizations they cannot control.
The deal started to falter when Gauney was not able to arrange for the group’s legal representation to review the agreement in time for Wednesday’s Council meeting.
Since that could not happen, the deal could not be finalized, and Smart Growth asked for more time to make it a reality.
Council members Ferry and McLean illustrated a hesitancy to postpone the decision, and offered to have the City Attorney to help craft language during the meeting’s public comment period.
Gauny then announced that while he could speak for Smart Growth by saying that the principals of the agreement were acceptable, he could not sign a binding agreement on behalf of the group with out their legal review.
“I can’t go through a 60 page document in three hours and make a decision,” Gauny said.
And in a flash, the deal that seemed so close 24 hours before fell off the option list as the majority of the City Council opted to move forward.
During the next few hours, the Assistant City Attorney worked with the hospital to craft language in the Development Agreement that would allow for the same concessions anyway; although the language also included a provision that nullified the concessions if any legal action was filed against the hospital with regards to the expansion plans. This brought the agreement into a realm where any legal action, from Smart Growth or anyone else, would bring the project back to its previously proposed state.
Since Smart Growth was not able to have their attorney present to review it, they did not agree.
Council member Ender then moved to pass the plan without any of the compromise language. Mayor pro Tem Frank Ferry seconded the motion and the plan passed by a 4-1 vote, with Kellar dissenting.
The accompanying Developer Agreement was also moved forward Wednesday night, by a 3-2 vote with Kellar and McLean dissenting. This will now come back for a second reading on December 9th for final approval.
By 1:00 a.m., the supposed end of one of the most bitterly contested projects in the City’s 20 year history came to an end. Although in some respects, the argument could just be starting a new chapter.
Smart Growth may plan to pursue legal action, which could delay the project further.
KHTS AM-1220 will do a follow up on the aftermath of the decision from both sides in the coming days. Check hometownstation.com for that story.