Construction crews are busy at the University Villages site, just south of Imjin Road and adjacent to Highway 1. However, the controversy that has plagued the project since its beginnings still isn’t completely over.

Richard Rosenthal, an attorney representing the Save Our Peninsula Committee, which sued to halt the University Villages project, is appealing a March Superior Court ruling that allowed the project to move forward. Rosenthal says he will file a brief on Sept. 18.

Rosenthal contends that Marina officials approved an inadequate environmental document for the project in 2005, while also alleging that city officials failed to exercise independent judgment in their assessment of the project.

In their defense, Marina officials contend that their analysis of the project’s environmental documents can’t be second-guessed by a court, and that the challenges to the project amount to little more than disagreements over details.

Meanwhile, another controversy has resolved itself in the City’s favor. In the wake of an article in these pages that questioned whether Marina would be cut out of a profit-sharing deal it had struck with University Villages developers, the City has shown that the developers will indeed be obligated to share a slice of their profits in both phases of the development.

These technical issues and others regarding the University Villages development deal were cleared up last week by Doug Yount, director of Marina’s Strategic Development Center, the agency that’s overseeing some of the largest redevelopment projects on the former Fort Ord.

Reading from a document prepared by Oakland-based lawyer Karen Tiedemann, Yount went over some questions the Weekly had submitted to Marina officials during the first week of August, and resubmitted a few times since then. In the brief meeting held at Marina City Hall, Yount explained that the city of Marina will potentially be receiving a share of profits from the developers of the project.

The developer of the first stage of the project, Marina Community Partners (MCP), is made up of three companies—Shea Homes, Shea Properties and Centex Homes. The three companies will in turn build the final stages of the project.

According to the development agreement signed with the city of Marina, MCP will perform the initial “horizontal” development, installing things like water lines and roads on the property before selling lots. The three builders, or “vertical developers,” will be responsible for building the project’s approximately 1,027 homes and dozens of commercial spaces.

It’s expected that Shea Homes, Shea Properties and Centex Homes will finish the first phase of the development (which will include a Target and a Kohl’s) in 2007.

According to the development agreement, profits above 22 percent that MCP earns from the sale of the developed lots to the three companies must be shared with the City and the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA).

In doubt was whether the City would also share in profits when the “vertical developers”—in fact the same businesses that make up MCP—sell the houses and stores they build.

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Debbie Platt, project manager for the University Villages project at the Strategic Development Center, says the three construction companies will be allowed to make a profit of between 8 to 10 percent on the sale of those finished spaces. Any revenue above that must be shared with MCP, which could in turn be forced to share with the City and FORA.

Yount also pointed to language in the agreement that gives the city of Marina the right to review the accounting books of the vertical developers of the project. That way, they can verify that the City isn’t being cut out of potential profits.

Critics of the project, who included Quinton Roland, a former grants writer with the City’s redevelopment agency, had claimed that the City appeared to have no such right under the terms of the development agreement.

Yount explains that the City had gone to great lengths to make sure that Marina got a good deal from the large project, one of the largest to take place on the former Fort Ord.

The sit-down session at Yount’s office came a week after Yount, in a memorandum addressed to Marina City Manager Anthony Altfeld, criticized two recent Weekly articles that scrutinized some details of the University Villages deal.

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