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February 17, 2010 > Examining the role of the parks commission

Examining the role of the parks commission

By Dustin Findley

On November 18, 2008, Milpitas City Council approved the Landmark Tower project, a 375-unit, 18-story mixed-use building at 600 Barber Lane. When the project was approved, the Park-in-Lieu fee was estimated to be $4,638,685.

The applicant TP Pham, LLC offered to grant public access to the project's half-acre roof-top garden during the building's operating hours. This permanent-access dedication can be used toward the project's park obligations. The value of improvements to the roof garden can also be used to offset the park in-lieu fee.

Pending preparation of a supporting study, staff estimated that if such public access easement was granted, then no additional park in-lieu fee would be required.

Council approved the elimination of the in-lieu fee on August 18, 2009, and provided credit to the applicant for the planned public rooftop park or garden in-lieu of any remaining fees. According to the meeting minutes, staff agreed that open space would be properly provided on completion of the project so in-lieu fees would not be necessary.

On October 5, 2009, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Commissioner Kathryn Gray asked her fellow PRCRC commissioners if the Landmark Tower park proposal should have come before them.

"Something like this is supposed to come to this commission first. Developments that require any kind of space or land in the city," responded PRCRC Chair Steve Munzel in reply.

Munzel broached the matter with Planning and Neighborhood Services Director James Lindsay on November 2, 2009.

According to Lindsay, the applicant was proposing a rooftop garden and making the private space accessible. It would not be listed as a public park, or public inventory park, but would be private open space available to the public. Council considered that adequate open space.

"When we get into new developments that are dedicating property or proposing new parks that the city will own and maintain and become part of our future inventory, the design of those parks would immediately go before the PRCRC," said Lindsay.

"When land is developed in the City of Milpitas, the developer must either pay in-lieu fees or take mitigating action for taking the land for development," stated Munzel.

He added that he believed some of the more recent developments had not been presented to the PRCRC with any in lieu fees or open space proposals. Lindsay explained that development has slowed down; new developments will go before the Commission when the plans are further developed.

"This Commission continues to play a role in the future design of public parks" said Lindsay.

On October 5, 2009, Munzel recommended the Commission remind Council in writing of the importance of utilizing the PRCRC rather than bypass their collective expertise. The item has been absent from all of the Commission's 2010 agendas. Munzel will approach his fellow commissioners to see if there is still interest in sending a letter.

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