Representative of developer Bellevue North backs out of newspaper interview

A representative of a developer agreed to, then backed out of, an interview over potential annexation and development plans.
Photo: Matthew Keys/Winters Express
Photo: Matthew Keys/Winters Express

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series of reports published in the newspaper that highlighted ongoing discussions between the representative and city and county officials over the last few months. Jeffrey Roberts, a representative of real estate company Bellevue North, agreed to an interview with the Express last week, writing in an April 18 email that he had been out of town and “would be happy to chat with you next week when I am back in the office.” Roberts asked the Express to email questions so he could prepare for the interview. By policy, the Express does not normally provide interview questions in advance; however, a reporter offered background information based on several published reports and contained in numerous documents obtained by the newspaper via a public records request in April. That background included information that city and county officials had been told by Roberts that a much-anticipated report by the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) was laying the foundation for future annexation and development proposals, the process of which started after Bellevue North sent the City of Winters a check for nearly $12,000 to reimburse city officials over projected costs associated with processing a forthcoming specific development plan application. A copy of the check and associated reimbursement agreement was published by the Express on April 17. City and county officials called into question the truthfulness of Roberts’ purported claim that the EDAC report was setting in motion a future application of a specific development plan. In an email with the Express, Christine Crawford, the chief executive of Yolo County’s Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO), said Roberts told her the EDAC report was clearing the way for a proposed “sphere of influence” expansion. Crawford said she learned after the mid-March meeting with Roberts that his claim about the EDAC report was untrue; she told the Express Roberts “spun” her comments on other points as part of an effort to “paint his proposal in a positive light.” The Express also told Roberts it understood he and City Manager John Donlevy had quietly traded draft proposals and other documents for several months before the $12,000 check was cut to the city in early April. Those draft documents included several preliminary version of the EDAC report, including a finalized version of the report that was given to Roberts and other officials by Donlevy three days before it was made publicly available online. That information was made public by the Express after receiving several email records between Donlevy and Roberts covering late December to early April. In one of the last emails received, Roberts acknowledged watching a contentious city council meeting on April 2 via a YouTube stream made available by the City of Winters. “The commenters really want an open and transparent process, and I don’t see any problem with that at all,” Roberts wrote. The Express reached out to Roberts multiple times in an attempt to schedule a phone interview. Roberts sent an email on April 18 agreeing to speak with a reporter the following week but never acknowledged a request for a specific day or time. After two follow-up messages, Roberts sent an email to the Express on April 23 saying he felt it “would be best if we could like to finish up some discussions / negotiations we are having with several planning firms before we talk about what potential ideas we have for the various properties.” “It seems as though you already have all of the current information on this project as you have written about it in the various stories during the past few weeks,” Roberts wrote. He extended an invitation to “any and all outreach / information meetings that we hold in the future,” but otherwise ignored repeated requests to schedule an interview. Roberts and Bellevue North’s credibility have drawn scrutiny by city and county officials who claim he made statements to them that were untrue or otherwise misrepresented comments made in email records obtained by the Express. In an email with the Express on Monday, Donlevy initially refused to say whether he felt confident that Roberts and Bellevue North would keep their word when the development company notifies city officials that they intend to do something. “Because I am not privy to the context or correspondence you have had with folks regarding what you feel has been misrepresented, I really do not feel that it is appropriate to comment on what you are alleging,” Donlevy wrote. He then said city officials had worked with Roberts and Bellevue North on a number of initiatives over the last few years — including water, wastewater, storm drainage, flood control and farming issues — and that Roberts generally kept his word when he said Bellevue intended to carry out certain plans. “Their representatives, including Mr. Roberts, have always been cordial, professional and followed through on whatever was agreed to,” Donlevy wrote. “The most significant example was their work to stem flooding issues in the north area, Rd 89 and the flows into the Almond Orchard subdivision which for the most part, they solved.” Donlevy said Bellevue North was a “major property owner in the city” and that the city’s approach was to “seek collaboration with our residents and property owners…on issues of mutual concern and interest.” “We talk to a lot of people about a lot of things and we don’t consider anything real until it really becomes real,” Donlevy said, adding that Bellevue North had still not submitted a formal application of a specific development plan as of Monday morning. “Until we receive something in a formal manner, we will hold judgment,” Donlevy said. “Until then, we consider things to be pure speculation on the part of all parties. It would be unfair to the applicant, the public and other involved parties to do anything else.”]]>

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