Friends of the Petaluma River accepts $35,000 donation from shopping center developer

A gift of $25,000 is hard to turn down, even if there are concerns about where it came from. One of $35,000 is even more enticing.

Friends of the Petaluma River has decided to accept $25,000 from developers of the controversial Friedman's-anchored Deer Creek Village shopping center.

It will also accept $10,000 that another group — Heritage Homes of Petaluma — rejected last week because it came as the result of a settlement forced by the Petaluma Neighborhood Association, which agreed to drop legal challenges to the project in exchange for concessions from developer Merlone Geier Partners.

The PNA has come under fire from some residents who decry what they see as a dangerous precedent that forces developers, after meeting all the city's planning requirements, to pay off private opposition groups to avoid costly lawsuits. Its two settlements also have included minor project modifications and changes to benefit nearby neighborhoods.

J.T. Wick, Friends of the Petaluma River board chairman, said his group "had a mix of praise and concerns for the contribution," but ultimately agreed to accept it because it was Merlone Geier's idea.

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