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So, I attended the board meeting of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. last night.

There was quite a turnout. Staffers for SEDC had to keep on bringing in more chairs for all the interested members of the public.

At issue in the meeting was the approval of a call for developer bids on the troubled Valencia Business Park. For the back story, check out my post yesterday.

The board unanimously approved the new request for proposals, which calls for developers to propose both industrial and commercial projects for the site. The call comes after the City Attorney’s Office demanded that the project be put out to bid after the chosen developer, Pacific Development Partners, attempted to change the project from industrial to commercial and SEDC asked the city to change the zoning on the project. PDP had agreed to purchase the land for $1.5 million from SEDC, a price based on industrial uses. Commercial uses are generally more valuable and the rezone could’ve doubled or tripled the land’s value.

The board also heard some public comment and there was some fairly lively debate among the board members themselves.

Board member Richard Geisler asked whether the board has a written agreement with PDP that they will walk away from the current deal if they are not chosen as the developer for the project. He also asked if there are any penalties for SEDC cancelling their agreement with PDP.

The answer to both of those questions, as given by SEDC President Carolyn Smith, was no.

Geisler also asked whether PDP will get back the $50,000 it paid as a deposit last time it was chosen as the developer. Royce Jones, SEDC’s outside counsel, said SEDC has no obligation to give the money back, but that SEDC may consider paying back the $50,000 if PDP isn’t chosen again.

A couple of representatives of the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, a nonprofit organization committed to supporting local grassroots organizations, made public comments.

Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of the coalition, called for a public review process for the bids on the project once they have all been submitted. He said he wants to see that whatever project comes in to the Valencia Business Park is the best project for creating jobs and opportunities in the community.

In the end, in a rather confused vote that had to be taken twice because the first vote was unclear, the board approved the new request for proposals. Board member D. Cruz Gonzales had one last comment about the issue.

“We have some concerns about this, and we will be watching it very carefully,” he said.

WILL CARLESS

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