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City Council won’t form Appeals Board to settle squabble with industrial developer
• Council says it will settle the problem
Ceres city seal

A flap between the city’s engineering team and a developer wanting to construct an industrial building in the Miller Industrial Tract prompted a City Council discussion last week about setting up an Appeals Board. The council ultimately voted 5-0 to reject forming such a panel.

When the city updated the Ceres Municipal Code, new language was added regarding appeals of administrative decisions. The disagreement is over the interpretation of a Public Works improvement standard relating to on-site storm drainage.  The project cannot proceed until the matter is resolved.

“Having said that, it has become necessary for staff to consider the creation of an Appeals Board due to a discrepancy over a development standard for a project being proposed in the city,” wrote City Manager Tom Westbrook in a staff report. He said the discrepancy requires that a professional panel be assembled and take input regarding this matter and render a decision. 

The developer requested a hearing in front of an Appeals Board, which is allowed through the California Building Code. The City Council decided it would serve as an appeals board instead of have city staff to assemble a board of impartial experts in the field of engineering. He recommended a panel because of the technical nature of the disagreement.

Mayor Chris Vierra said he was “leery of creating an appeals board – we just went through an exhaustive municipal code review and updated our codes and if we now create an appeals board, any time someone doesn’t like our standards they can appeal it.” He suggested the code be changed to clarify what the city wants.

Westbrook said the disagreement was less about the code but more of over a design standard.

Councilman Mike Kline agreed with the mayor, saying the city has seen little quibbling about standards.

Vice Mayor Linda Ryno said she prefers to see problems appealed to the City Council.

“We are looking out for the best interests, I think, of the community and my fear would be that if you had an appeals board that didn’t have that same connection that they may at something even differently than we would,” said Ryno. “And I agree that if there seems to be an issue with something in our standards then staff should look at having a discussion and potentially changing it.”

Councilman Bret Durossette agreed, saying there’s been little fuss over city standards.

“I know we did the entire muni code and I would just hate to put  a board of people there that really aren’t dialed into what’s going on as far as the city’s concerned,” said Durossette.

Tim Armstrong of SteelCo Construction said he’s been dealing with the city since April in resolving a dispute about an underground storm water retention basin with City Engineer Daniel Padilla. He said he submitted engineered design plans to maintain his storm water.

“We feel that we’ve provided something that is adequate but Mr. Padilla is asking us for more type of underground storage which we think is something we need to do,” said Armstrong.

He was cut off by the mayor and City Attorney Tom Hallinan who said the matter was not on the agenda and needed to be heard by whatever body is selected to resolve it.