The voted Tuesday night to continue a public hearing on a $12 million subsidy to Primestor Development, the developer of the Azalea retail project that would create a shopping mall on Firestone Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue.
The only resident who discussed the project during the public hearing was Virginia Johnson, who said she no longer supports the development despite initially backing it.
“I was 100 percent for this project in the beginning until I realized how much money they were asking from our community,” said Johnson. “I say the developers are asking for too much money.”
Primestor representatives argued that the $12 million subsidy is fair, and that opponents do not have sufficient information on the project or the funding proposal.
“They do not have enough information or knowledge [about the project] to know whether it is too little or too much,” said Arturo Sneider, founding partner of Primestor, when asked by Patch about the subsidy.
The subsidy was described in the council agenda as a $12 million sales tax revenue and property tax revenue incentive.
Councilman Henry Gonzalez asked about rumors that some potential tenants of the shopping project have dropped out.
“I don’t know if it's true or not, but I have heard some of the proposed tenants backed out,” said Gonzalez, who has also raised concerns about the size of the subsidy.
Sneider told Patch that tenants had not backed out, but rather competing projects were approaching them and trying to entice the tenants to move.
“There are competing projects that are gaining a lot of steam and that are talking to our tenants about moving,” said Sneider.
The project has been in the works for 19 months, Sneider told the council.
The council voted to continue the public hearing to its next meeting on March 27. Vice Mayor Bill De Witt excused himself from the discussion and abstained from the vote because of a potential conflict of interest, but he did not specify as to what the conflict involved.
In other business, the City Council voted 4 to 1 in favor of allowing an appeal of a Planning Commission decision denying a permit to allow a small recycling collection facility on Firestone.
The City Council was told a recycling plant representative who had been scheduled to appear before the Planning Commission was not able to make it due to a family emergency. Because of the absence of this expert, the majority of the council agreed that another hearing would be fair.
“We should give him the opportunity to present to the commission,” said Mayor Maria Davila.
Jorge Morales was the only council member who opposed the appeal.
“It's an issue of aesthetics,” said Morales after the meeting. He cited the existence of another recycling facility in the area. “Maybe if they were to put it somewhere else then I would probably consider it.”
The City Council also discussed the closure of a post office in the Hollydale neighborhood and another on Firestone Boulevard. Both were supposed to be closed in May, but they will continue to operate beyond that time to avoid disruption during the election season.
Vice Mayor De Witt and Councilmember Gonzalez agreed to meet with businesses in both areas to discuss how the city could help prevent the closure of both post offices.
The council also agreed to continue working on the possibility of designating the Firestone Boulevard post office as a historic building.
Councilman Gil Hurtado excused himself from the post office discussion and motions, because of a potential conflict of interest since he is a U.S. Postal Service supervisor in Downey.
The councilmembers also heard a presentation by representatives of the American Cancer Society and unanimously supported the group's Relay for Life event set during the weekend of July 14 at .
The City Council also approved a list of recommended projects from the Citizen's Advisory Committee.
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