MODESTO -- The developer of The Marketplace a proposed 170,000-square-foot shopping center in northeast Modesto has withdrawn the project from City Council consideration in order to conduct an environmental review.
Developer Berberian Holdings is performing the review because of the threat of legal action by project opponents, according to Dave Romano, Berberian's project engineer.
Romano wrote the City Council on Jan. 3 that while the developer is confident city staff thoroughly analyzed the project and it complies with Modesto's general plan and state environmental law, legal action could result in unnecessary delays.
For that and other reasons, Romano said Berberian Holdings will undertake what is called an environmental impact report. The report will look at the shopping center's impact on noise, traffic, pollution and other issues.
Unlike the earlier review, the EIR will look at the project's impact on urban blight.
Opponents say it appears there is no need for The Marketplace because there is more than 260,000 square feet of vacant retail-commercial space in east Modesto. They claim the center will accelerate urban blight as businesses abandon nearby shopping centers for The Marketplace.
The shopping center is slated for 18 acres at the southwest corner of Sylvan Avenue and Oakdale Road near Naraghi Lake-area residents, who have opposed the project.
Modesto's Planning Commission unanimously approved the shopping center in September. The matter had been scheduled to appear before the City Council for final approval a few times but was postponed each time.
It could take eight to 12 months for the project to come back to the Planning Commission and then the City Council, said Patrick Kelly, Modesto's planning manager. Kelly estimated the cost of the EIR at $130,000.
"At this point," he said, "we don't expect any major changes to the site layout as a result of the additional environmental studies."
Kelly said an EIR will examine essentially the same issues the city reviewed, such as noise and traffic, but in greater depth.
Ripon attorney Thomas Terpstra, whose law office represents the Naraghi Lake Neighborhood Preservation Association, wrote the city that his clients are convinced that the project as presently proposed is not consistent with the city's general plan and will have negative consequences.
That's why, Terpstra wrote, his clients welcome an environmental impact report. He added that an EIR provides for more public input, including input on the EIR's scope.
The current plans for The Marketplace include a 52,000-square-foot grocery store, shops, restaurants and other businesses.
Save Mart has expressed serious interest in putting a store at The Marketplace.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.