‘The Village’ plans from City of Arcata’s website.

Deliberations about “the Village” — a large-scale housing development proposed for the old Craftman’s Mall site in Arcata — continued during the Arcata City Council meeting Wednesday night. The council unanimously voted to have developers draft yet another version of the project, one that would hard-cap the occupancy of the project at 602 residents.

After many meetings on the project the council voted down the Village last year, some council members feeling that they could not approve the project if it included housing for students only. Earlier this year developers submitted a revised version of the project which included a mix of student and open market units.

During a meeting in March the council asked the applicants to revise the project again, requesting it be composed of 65 percent student housing and 35 percent open market units, and to hold 602 residents. In this version, the council also included a five percent “contingency,” which capped the project at 632 residents. The latest revision of the the project brought before council would house 628 residents, 5 four less that the cap the council had set.

However, the council did not approve the latest version as is, despite it meeting all the parameters set during the last meeting. Councilmember Susan Ornelas said that after considering the feelings of the neighboring homeowners, she felt that she could no longer approve something larger than 602 people and she regretted voting for the 5 percent flexibility.

“I regretted that since the moment I did it,” Ornelas said. “I apologize to the developer for agreeing to that.”

Screenshot from the Arcata City council meeting

Mayor Brett Watson has continuously opposed the project, due largely to concerns with the size. Watson voted no during the last meeting because he was not in support of the five percent flexibility in size. Councilmembers Paul Pitino and Sofia Pereira had both continuously voted in favor of the project. Michael Winkler has recused himself on all deliberations on the Village, due to a conflict of interest. (Winkler’s company did energy consulting for the developers, AMCAL.)

As at all previous meetings, many community members came to speak up on this issue. Those who were opposed to the housing project cited concerns with the size and impacts on traffic, parking and drainage. Those in favor cited the need for housing, especially for students, in Arcata.

“Without HSU being successful, the City of Arcata becomes more of a city like Orick,” Arcata resident Jeremy Cotton said to the council. “If the developer is providing you with what you asked for at the last meeting, then I think you should vote for it.”

Kimberly Tays was among those speaking against the project due to its size and potential impacts on the community, but also because of a concern about the environmental impact report (EIR).

An attorney representing Steve Strombeck of Strombeck Properties pointed out to the council that the EIR had been drafted by a company contracted by the developers, something he said is not usually permitted.

Arcata Community Development Director David Loya assured the council that staff had vetted the report. But he did admit that, in hindsight, the city should have picked the company to draft the report. Loya said that going forward either city staff would make amendments to the EIR or they would choose the outside company, if necessary.

“Now that this has been brought to our attention, we will correct our process,” Loya said.

Arcata city staff will now work with developers to prepare a version of the project that fits the new criteria and bring it back before the council.

You can view the video of the meeting here.