County official says developer misrepresented her comments in emails to city

“He spun my comments…in his efforts to paint his proposal in a positive light.”
A map detailing a proposed "sphere of influence" expansion as distributed by Bellevue North to city officials in January 2019. The Express obtained this map and others through a public records request in April. Image: Bellevue North/City of Winters
A map detailing a proposed “sphere of influence” expansion as distributed by Bellevue North to city officials in January 2019. The Express obtained this map and others through a public records request in April. Image: Bellevue North/City of Winters

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develop nearly 800 acres of the outskirts of town, some of which could soon be annexed into the city. Details of that meeting were made public at a joint city-county informational session last Tuesday, with further details coming from Crawford in a series of email conversations with the Express over the last week. Crawford said she had been generally aware that Bellevue North, operated by Central California rancher and developer Greg Hostetler, would eventually submit some kind of plan for development. But she said she was surprised when Roberts showed up to her office unannounced last month with details of the plans that were new to her. Specifically, she expressed concern over a new plan that would call for Winters to expand it’s “sphere of influence” as outlined in its general plan to include new unincorporated lands following annexation efforts involving Bellevue-owned property. “I’m like, whoa, this is something new that we hadn’t seen before,” Crawford said at last Tuesday’s meeting. “I told him my board might have some concerns about approving a sphere of influence expansion.” In email records obtained by the Express, Roberts confirmed Crawford’s concerns when he relayed details of the meetings to City Manager John Donlevy and Project Manager Heidi Tschudin. “I met with Christine Crawford today and let her know what we were proposing to do in the near future,” Roberts wrote. “She said that the [sphere of influence plan] would be ‘hard work’ but then gave me some ideas on how to position the request for presentation to the LAFCO board.” DOCUMENT: Read emails between Jeff Roberts and city officials regarding the LAFCO meeting In an email conversation with the Express last week, Crawford denied giving Roberts any pointers on how to present his plan before the LAFCO board, saying she merely suggested to him that “an argument could be made for additional [sphere of influence] area if, in fact, much of the existing [sphere of influence] turned out to be underdeveloped.” “I was not trying to help him position the project,” Crawford told the Express. “But I see that he spun my comments to John Donlevy in his efforts to paint his proposal in a positive light.” During the meeting, Crawford said Roberts asserted a sphere of influence plan was being directed by the city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC), something Crawford said she later determined to be untrue after consulting with Donlevy and reading the EDAC’s report released earlier this month. According to Crawford, Roberts also argued for an expanded sphere of influence based on the notion that around 200 acres of land in the city’s current sphere of influence is “undevelopable” because of flood concerns. “I responded that maybe, maybe — and I recall actually repeating this word —  an argument could be made…but we would have to see what data comes from the flood studies that would occur through the Specific Plan process,” Crawford said. Reached by email last week, Roberts agreed to speak with the Express sometime this week about this and other issues. He did not return a follow-up message seeking comment about his interaction with Crawford during last month’s meeting. RELATED STORY: Documents outline potential plan for annexation, development The meeting first came to light in email messages between Roberts and city officials obtained by the Express through a public records request filed with the city earlier this month. The existence of certain email correspondence between Roberts and City Manager Donlevy was first made public by two city council members who expressed concern over the city’s perceived lack of transparency on the issues of future annexation and development in the northern part of town. Email records obtained by the Express showed Donlevy and Roberts had been in regular communication with each other since late December on the issue of annexation and development, and both sides had shared information with the other on potential annexation and development plans that had not been previously made public. That information included draft copies of the EDAC’s much-anticipated report on general land use as well as guidance on how Bellevue North should proceed with an application for a specific filing. At the April 2 council meeting, Donlevy said no specific application had been filed with city officials, a position he reiterated during a background meeting held with the Express on April 16. But records obtained by the newspaper show the process is largely underway after Roberts sent the city a check for over $11,000 to reimburse city officials for costs connected to a future application filing. Responding to the transparency issues, Donlevy announced his intention to hold a new series of public meetings called “Ask a City Manager” in which members of the public would be invited to ask him questions about city business. He also directed the launch of a new webpage on the city’s website with information and documents related to potential plans for the development of north Winters.]]>

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  1. In addition to flood studies, which are obviously needed, isn’t this area of annexation in or near an old City of Winters dump site? I would be concerned about flood waters causing the dump site to leach toxic materials into the surrounding orchards and homes.

  2. In addition to flood studies, which are obviously needed, isn’t this area of annexation in or near an old City of Winters dump site? I would be concerned about flood waters causing the dump site to leach toxic materials into the surrounding orchards and homes.

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