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City of St. Helena

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The legal expense of defending development projects in court is one of the topics of the next city council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, at Vintage Hall.

Under current city policy, developers are responsible for paying the city’s legal expenses when an approved project is challenged in court. On Tuesday the council will consider an ordinance that would free certain developers from that requirement, as long as their project is a residential development of 20 units or fewer that satisfies the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance for affordable housing.

Developer Joe McGrath has been paying the city’s legal expenses related to a lawsuit filed against his 8-unit housing project on McCorkle Avenue. McGrath has said that the litigation costs have substantially affected the financial viability of the project.

If the council chooses to pursue the ordinance, it would still have to go through the public hearing process at the Planning Commission and City Council.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda:

  • A proposal by McGrath to satisfy the city’s affordable housing requirements by placing affordable housing deed restrictions on two rental units on Grayson Avenue.
  • Review of the city’s updated Long-Range Financial Forecast.
  • Appointment of two applicants – Tom Vence and Pam Smithers – to the Active Transportation/Sustainability Committee.
  • Approval of a policy regarding the issuance and use of city fuel cards, as recommended by financial auditors.