After quickly passing the Consent Agenda, which included acknowledgement of the “Cancellation of Coronado Holiday Events Including the Holiday Open House Parade and Snow Mountain,” the remainder of the City Council meeting on Nov. 3 was taken up by a single agenda item; a Public Hearing that included a review and adoption of the final Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the Golf Course Water Recycling and Turf Care Facility Project.
Community Development Director Rich Grunow began the staff presentation with a brief history and overview of the project. He then gave details and background on the MND which the council was being asked to vote on. Much of his presentation was directed to the public to facilitate a better understanding of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process requirements and guidelines for determining whether or not the project required an MND or an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
According to Grunow, CEQA requires an EIR if a project may result in a significant, unmitigated physical impact on the environment, and an MND if the lead agency determines the project would not have a significant effect on the environment. “Because there was no substantial evidence in the record that the project may have a significant unmitigated effect on the environment we proceeded with a Mitigated Negative Declaration,” he explained.
The MND for the Golf Course Water Recycling project lists four areas of impact and corresponding mitigation strategies: Cultural and Tribal Cultural Resources - mitigated by grading oversight by a qualified Native American Monitor; Geology (paleontology) - mitigated by grading oversight by a qualified paleontologist; Noise (construction) - controlled by best management practices in construction; Biological Resources - mitigated by avoiding nesting bird season and/or conducting pre-construction nesting surveys.
As required by CEQA, the public was given 30 days to review and comment on the Draft MND. During the period from Sept. 16 - Oct. 16, 2020, copies of the document were available at City Hall and the Public Library, a legal ad was published in the Coronado Eagle & Journal, and notices were sent to property owners on Glorietta Boulevard.
City staff organized the public comments into categories and Mr. Grunow provided an extensive and detailed list of responses to the submitted concerns. The complete list can be found at coronado.ca.us in City Council, Agendas and Minutes, Video for the 11/03 meeting (Item 8a).
After the presentation, councilmembers weighed in with opinions on the MND, the public comments both in support of and against the project, and their level of satisfaction with the process.
“After reviewing the reports and all the comments and responses I feel confident that all project impacts can be mitigated to less than a significant impact,” said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey.
In reference to the broad scope of the public comments, Councilmember Marvin Heinze pointed out that “many are more applicable to the Design-Build phase and we need to make sure that our team keeps those in place as we move forward.”
Councilmember Mike Donovan also acknowledged the issues brought up by the public that were not specifically related to the MND. He said that many of those, like financial and seismological concerns, had been addressed in previous discussions during the approval process. He indicated his intent to support the staff recommendations, “I think the MND is adequate and meets the requirements, and I don’t believe we need a full EIR.”
Councilmember Whitney Benzian stated that the MND was well-written, thorough and rigorous. He also listed additional reasons for supporting the project, “We are going to supply our own locally sourced water for our parks and golf course. That’s water that we will not be taking from the Colorado River and not taking from Northern California. And that helps not only our City, but the region and the State.”
Councilmember Bill Sandke spoke about his satisfaction with the role the project will play in helping achieve the City’s Climate Action goals. He affirmed his trust in staff and the reports they have done over ten years on this project. “They have provided us with the tools we need to make a good decision tonight… I have the utmost confidence that when people look back at our decision tonight, at this point in the process, to move forward is the right thing. Right time. Right project. For all the right reasons.”
A motion by Heinze, seconded by Benzian, led to a 5-0 vote to approve a five-part item that included: the final MND adoption; a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting program; selection and approval of the project; adoption of the Geotechnical Investigation recommendations; and authorization to solicit Design/Build teams and proceed with permit applications and approval of a proposed contract.
The next regular meeting of the Coronado City Council will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 4pm.