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Developer claims city owes him a much larger refund of fees
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A Danville developer who abandoned plans for the Maple Glen Master Plan claims the city of Ceres has shortchanged him nearly $100,000 in a refund of fees.

Scott Stringer approached the City Council last week, giving a complex explanation and stack of documents which he says shows that the city owes him a $145,448 refund. The city, however, issued Stringer a $49,782 refund.

Stringer had been working on planning an annexation of the land for Maple Glen near Central Valley High School since 2005. He pulled the plug on the project last August, mostly because the housing market had plummeted. But last week he hinted that the project could have proceeded before the economic downturn had the city not delayed.

Stringer was required to put $335,065 into a city-controlled account for which studies and consultants would be paid. The city hired RRM Design Group of Oakdale to do the master planning process. Ken Craig, Community Development Director for the city of Ceres insists that no more refund is due "for the simple reason that we believe staff administered the contract with strict legal compliance."

Stringer claims the city arrived at the wrong refund amount - some $95,666 - "based on an incorrect understanding of the various contracts and related documents" pertaining to Maple Glen.

City Manager Brad Kilger informed Stringer in December that he did not understand what work had been done and its cost. In a Dec. 17 letter Kilger stated that Stringer was "sufficiently kept informed of the need to increase the consultant's scope of work in order to keep the project moving forward."

Stringer acknowledged that he was informed that if costs exceeded estimates, he would be responsible for the costs. But he said "that does not grant a blank check to spend my money without at least asking me."

Stringer noted that a schedule outlined that the project master plan, environmental review and annexation to be done by February 2007. He terminated the process 18 months after that and the project wasn't completed.

"This is a violation of the contract in terms of cost and in terms of time," Stringer said.

"One of the problems we had throughout the process was the lack of schedule," he said.

An irritated Mayor Anthony Cannella stopped Stringer to remind him that he was "getting off track as far as the money portion." But Stringer said the failure to adhere to the schedule was "part of the reason the project failed, stopped."

"We never had a schedule. We never knew when things would be done. I could never report to investors or landowners ... when we would be completed in the process. We were a year and a half past the due date and I could do get a schedule, I could not help make basic business decisions."

The delays also drove up contract costs, he said. He pointed out that in May 2008 a RRM Design employee pressed city officials for comments on the draft master plan, something he had not gotten in nine months.

"Those types of delays are what caused the increased costs. I've had discussions with the principals of RRM and quite frankly they didn't budget for this extensive time frame so they ran out of money and that's why they kept coming back asking for more."

Stringer charged that the city's accounting of his funds was "kind of a nightmare."

Cannella said he needed at least a month to pore over the documents and have city staff research the matter.