In response to this latest development, Gibson Thomas, a local resident the editor of Edible Marin & Wine Country magazine, wrote the following letter in response to the City's latest decision:
The news yesterday of yet another delay/postponement in the due process rights of the applicants in the Mill Valley Lumber Yard project could not go unanswered, or unshared with other caring, tax paying citizens of our town.
I would say that another 11th hour notice of further delay is shocking, if it were not just one more roadblock hastily thrown up by the Mill Valley Planning staff and the Planning Commission, with the apparent complicity of the City Council and City Administration, on the path of this landmark project.
In my capacity as the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Edible Marin & Wine Country magazine, I travel widely throughout Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties. Just last week I was in Healdsburg and Yountville, as well as San Anselmo. Each one of those small towns is absolutely abuzz, thriving, full of commerce and social activity. Tourists and locals, all out and about, creating community and supporting local businesses.
This was also the case with our town not so long ago. My family and I moved here 11 years ago for this exact reason. We paid dearly to do so, but it was worth it. We continue to pay frankly outrageous property taxes to remain here. The ability to walk our son to school, and to walk downtown to meet friends on the Plaza, shop and dine was one of our main reasons for choosing Mill Valley.
I was struck as I drove back into Mill Valley last week after the day in Yountville with how many empty storefronts STILL exist downtown. This has been a lingering heartache for a while, but with the recent closing of yet another longtime business on Throckmorton Avenue, it has reached a crisis point.
I ran into a fellow resident and local business owner outside the Mill Valley Market that evening, and she shared the same sentiments. Another longtime resident with the same dismay and frustration the following day. There is a rising ground swell of despair.
Last Thursday I met with the organizers of the Mill Valley Film Festival, and we discussed the shame that it will be when our town hosts the world-class festival again this year, “showcasing” so many empty storefronts - again.
Surely enough is enough.
When the Marin IJ published an article on the Mill Valley Lumber Yard project earlier this spring, noting that the owners, Mill Valley residents Matt and Jan Mathews, had opened the once private property to community gatherings, and planned to do more, someone commented on line that Mill Valley was ‘not a community that gathered together.’ I responded, disputing that. We ARE a community that gathers together, or we were… But, little by little, the community spirit is being eroded.
Please, please do not let a very vocal small handful of people, and certain members of the Planning Commission, derail this unique opportunity to craft a thriving addition to our town. One that by all accounts meets and exceeds the goals of the Mill Valley 2040 General Plan that was thoroughly vetted in public hearings. Have all of you actually visited this site? This project has been before the Planning Commission for over three years now. The tail has been wagging the dog for far too long. The rest of us are your constituents, too – residents and business owners. Questions have been asked and answered. Extensive and expensive studies done, and done again - by experts recommended by the City Staff itself.
THEY ARE NOT CHANGING THE FOOTPRINT OF THESE HISTORICAL BUILDINGS – UNTIL VERY RECENTLY A BUSY, DIRTY, LOUD LUMBERYARD.
This is now the widespread and often cited reputation of our town - it is too difficult to get through planning to do business here. We are withering as a result. Property values are being diminished, along with quality of everyday life.
It is time for our ELECTED representatives to step up and do the right thing. Or, be on record as complicit in the Mathews’ abandoning of this four-year project due to continued unreasonable delays, unclear directives from Staff, moving of goal posts, and exorbitant and unnecessary expenses.
That day could be approaching, and I do not believe that the residents of this town will be silent when a new developer steps in, with plans to convert what could have been a landmark gateway to our town into multi-family housing (potentially high density), or reverted back to an industrial site, both of which the property is currently zoned for - or worse.
I urge you to set a finite date for a proper and fair final hearing, and direct your Planning Staff to devote the attention this project needs and deserves, and, perhaps, even take the time to meet with the applicants yourselves to resolve the VERY few remaining issues – namely, parking. Let’s get this town back on the right track – thriving businesses attract more thriving business, and happy citizens (aka taxpayers).