CIR will steer us in right direction

April 3, 2008
Petaluma Argus Courier
Guest Commentary

CIR will steer us in right direction
By Paul Francis

There has been much talk centered on community impact reports these days. Some of it has been accurate, but much of it has been misreported. In most part, the opinions regarding the intentions behind the inception and implementation of this new policy/ordinance have been distorted.

One misconception in need of clarification is that the presentation of an idea like the CIR came from a political body or some other form of organized entity outside of Petaluma. In fact, the CIR requirement was part of a larger list of standards drafted by a group of Petaluma residents over a series of weekends and evenings last year to address their concerns regarding large-scale retail development in our city. This document is titled Responsible Retail Development in Petaluma. It can be viewed in complete form here.

Later in 2007, after seeing an array of irresponsible decisions being made by four of the seven City Council members, Petaluma residents decided they needed to do more to assure that Petaluma’s elected council members heed the community’s wishes in making economically prudent dec-isions regarding building more chain-store retail along East Washington Street and McDowell Boulevard.

In an attempt to get the City Council and staff up to speed with many other communities, similar to Petaluma, across the country that have already adopted the CIR as a method of analyzing “chain store” impacts on their local economies, the residents found it necessary to form a coalition. By bringing together residents from various other community groups, the intent was to address a few basic fundamental concepts of the General Plan and the city doctrine that were being neglected by some of the council members.

The above-referenced Responsible Retail Development in Petaluma document was eventually formatted as a petition and circulated through Petaluma last summer. The document garnered overwhelming support and gathered some 1,700 plus signatures and continues to do so. This document, among other things, includes a CIR requirement for projects over 25,000 square feet.

Nevertheless, given the document’s clarity of intent and the overwhelming support by the residents, there still lies an isolated minority that continues to oppose the CIR by fabricating fallacies to knock it. One of the fallacies that I, personally, would like to clarify is that the adoption of a CIR ordinance would somehow stop development here in Petaluma. This is a ridiculously made assumption and maliciously hypes an extreme-case scenario that simply doesn’t exist here in Petaluma.

Frankly, it’s insulting to put forth an idea that the residents would be so naïve to think that an economic analysis or any other development requirement would halt development in Petaluma forever. After all, why would we take the trouble to request the implementation of these basic guidelines, for development, if we wanted no development?

As the largest investors in Petaluma, we the residents want only the best possible opportunities for our community and its future. A responsible economic plan takes us past the short-term payoff of initial lump-sum development fees and perceived tax revenue and brings us closer to building a sustainable local economy that continues to fund the city for generations to come.

A community impact report ordinance will help steer us in the right direction economically while promoting the philosophy of why we live here.

(Petaluma resident Paul Francis is co-founder of the Petaluma Neighborhood Association. Contact the group at

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