Despite vocal opposition and calls for additional studies, a split Petaluma City Council early Tuesday approved the final environmental analysis of the Deer Creek Village shopping center.
The certification of the report is essentially the approval for the 36?-acre, 344,000-square-foot project, which is to be anchored by a Friedman's Home Improvement store. The project must still go through the design review for approval of architectural details.
Mike Healy, Mike Harris, Chris Albertson and Gabe Kearney voted to certify the final environmental impact report, while Tiffany Renee, Teresa Barrett and Mayor David Glass voted to reject it.
The decision didn't come easily: about 200 people packed City Hall for the hearing, which lasted six hours. Forty-seven residents spoke, 32 in favor of the project and of welcoming Friedman's back to its hometown after a four-decade absence.
Two opponents have retained lawyers to spearhead their resistance, although they didn't overtly threaten legal action Monday night.
Small business owner Bryce Pattison supported the project. He said he bought a fixer-upper when he moved to Petaluma and has spent more than $50,000 - "every penny of it in Santa Rosa" because Petaluma has no home improvement warehouse.
Developer Merlone Geier Partners of San Francisco has been working with the city since 2008 to develop the vacant property, at Rainier Avenue and North McDowell Boulevard along Highway 101, a site that was envisioned in the 2008 general plan for an even larger shopping center than Deer Creek.
Glass wanted a site with most of the retail space replaced a residential care facility for the elderly, although that option failed to gain any other council support.
"Was it what I wanted? No. But it did get improved," he said of the final Deer Creek proposal.
Merlone Geier spokesman Marko Mlikotin said the center will bring hundreds of jobs to Petaluma and about $1 million annually in sales and property tax revenue. The city will also receive about $9.2 million in development impact fees.