SMART east Petaluma station deal back on track

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SMART and a developer are nearing a deal that could result in a second Petaluma train station and more than 400 new units of housing at two sites, although negotiations over the city’s plans for the downtown development remain a key hurdle.

Since reaching a settlement agreement in July to end a yearlong lawsuit, Southern California developer Lomas Partners has made an offer to purchase a SMART-owned parcel next to the downtown train station, according to Todd Kurtin, principal of Lomas Partners.

As part of the deal, Lomas would build a 150-space parking lot for SMART commuters at the site of its housing development on Corona Road and McDowell Boulevard. SMART would use the proceeds from the sale of the downtown property to build a station at Corona Road, fulfilling a promise to provide two Petaluma train stops that was included in SMART’s original plan.

Kurtin declined to provide a copy of the settlement agreement or give the offer price. He said SMART made a counteroffer.

“We continue to work on an agreement that is beneficial to both parties,” said Kurtin, who originally developed the Quarry Heights neighborhood in Petaluma before selling it to a builder. “I’m full speed ahead with the Corona plan.”

SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian declined to provide the settlement or the offer price. He said the rail agency is working closely with the developer and the city of Petaluma on improvements at both station areas.

“There are many moving parts. Let me not comment on one part or another,” he said. “All parties are working diligently to resolve all the details.”

Kurtin has submitted plans to the city to build 110 single family homes on the 6.5-acre Corona Road site. The city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee last week offered feedback on the development, and Kurtin hopes to go before the Planning Commission next month.

A final approval from the City Council is the last step before Kurtin said he could break ground, which he hopes to do by next spring after partnering with a builder. Kurtin said he is currently reviewing bids from homebuilders.

Kurtin plans to build 325 apartment units on the downtown parcel. Complicating that project is a city planning document that spells out how development should take place around transit stations.

The Station Area Master Plan, which Petaluma completed in 2013, calls for turning the existing paved parking lot adjacent to the downtown SMART station into a street, said City Manager Peggy Flynn. That would result in less parking for SMART commuters, something the rail agency is against.

Flynn said she has been working with SMART on a compromise that keeps most of the elements in the master plan.

“If it works to everyone’s benefit, we all have to have a little flexibility,” she said. “We’re constantly trying to figure out how to make this project work.”

Plans for the downtown project call for a pedestrian promenade that would bisect the development and another to the southwest, allowing SMART riders to disembark and walk directly to the Petaluma River.

Mansourian said the Petaluma station is the second busiest on the Santa Rosa-San Rafael SMART line. He said a second Petaluma station will increase ridership.

“Petaluma will only continue to grow in ridership,” he said. “Having two stations with parking is critical. Petaluma is a very desirable place. We’re very much looking forward to the second station.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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