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Friedman’s plan for sewer plant site dead

Home improvement company still talking with city about alternate locations for hardware store, lumber yard

Published: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 1:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 4:15 p.m.

Faced with unresolved questions about the availability of city-owned land, the Friedman’s Home Improvement company has dropped its plan to partner with the developer of a mixed-use site on Hopper Street, city officials said.

The Sonoma County company, which got its start in Petaluma 63 years ago, is still interested in returning to town, and the city wants to make that happen, these officials stressed.

Petaluma Mayor Pamela Torliatt said City Manager John Brown was told that Friedman’s would no longer be pursuing a partnership with developer Basin Street Properties, as outlined in a letter the city received Feb. 25.

That letter said Basin Street wanted to include an 80,000-square-foot Friedman’s store on the city’s Hopper Street sewer plant site once the new Lakeville Highway plant is operational. The store would be part of a 40-acre mixed-use project on Basin Street’s adjacent “Riverfront” parcel, at the end of Hopper Street.

But the length of time required to decommission the sewer plant — which has been in use for more than 70 years — and other concerns about the proposed site conflicted with the companies’ proposal to get the store up and running by October of next year, officials indicated.

“This site and this proposal is not going to work, but we are still pursuing Friedman’s here in Petaluma,” Torliatt said. “They are looking at some alternate sites in the city.”

The new sewer plant is expected to be fully operational in June, and the Hopper Street site will go through a two-year process of decommissioning before the land is available for another use.

That work will involve a formal plan and environmental impact report that must be approved by the City Council, said Mike Ban, director of water resources and conservation.

In addition, the city had not planned on relocating its corporation yard from the sewer plant site — which the Friedman’s proposal would have required — and the proposed layout of the project interfered with the city’s plans for an extension of Caulfield Lane toward the river, officials said.

Torliatt said the “unrealistic timeline” for approving the offer — initially given as March 9 — did not allow the city to properly review the proposal, which asked for exemptions from requirements for a fiscal impact report and park impact fees.

In exchange, Basin Street offered to dedicate its portion of McNear Peninsula to the city for use as a park.

Representatives of Friedman’s and Basin Street did not return calls for comment. Friedman’s previously indicated a return to Petaluma had been a longtime goal.

“It’s been a dream of ours to return to Petaluma,” said Barry Friedman, the third-generation vice president of the hardware company. “We’ve wanted to return to our roots.”

Councilmember David Rabbitt said he viewed the offer as an opening for negotiations on bringing Friedman’s to Petaluma, and expressed optimism that the city would pursue such a move.

“I think they need about 10 acres, which is hard to come by in this town,” he said.

However, “If we’re serious about improving revenues, here’s someone knocking at our door. It’s an opportunity for a quality retailer with a proven track record that would fill a big hole in our retail fabric.”

(Contact Corey Young at corey.young@arguscourier.com)

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