A bitter two-year fight between the city of Sacramento and developer Paul Petrovich over his Crocker Village gas station proposal appears to be headed back to court.
The City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday to appeal a court ruling that said they wrongly rejected the Petrovich’s request to build a 16-pump gas station in the development north of Sutterville Road and adjacent to the Curtis Park neighborhood.
In that ruling, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny wrote last week that project-area Councilman Jay Schenirer demonstrated “an unacceptable probability of actual bias” and failed to act in an open-minded manner when the issue came before the council in late 2015.
As a result, the judge ordered the city to rescind its permit denial and to hold a new hearing on the matter. The judge directed Schenirer to recuse himself from participating in the new hearing. He gave the city 60 days to report back to him on what it has done to comply with his order.
The Tuesday council vote to challenge the judge’s ruling took place in closed session. Council members Schenirer, Angelique Ashby and Eric Guerra were absent for the closed session. City attorneys did not respond to a Bee request for comment Wednesday.
In an email, Petrovich blasted the city’s decision to appeal.
“The Council’s vote to appeal the judge’s decision should outrage every taxpayer in this city,” the developer wrote. “The order was very clear that the city was to simply give me a fair hearing within 60 days and recuse Councilman Schenirer because he illegally fixed the outcome of the council’s vote on the fueling station permit.
“Yet, council members are willing to waste even more precious taxpayer money on top of the $600,000 they have already spent to try and protect the reputation of one of their own ...,” he added.
Petrovich went on to accuse Schenirer and the council of prioritizing “some affluent Curtis Park residents” and blame the city for holding up completion of the Crocker Village project.
The developer sued the city in early 2016, a few months after the City Council voted 7-2 to deny him the permit.
The developer had asked for city approval to build a 16-pump station at the 72-acre community he is building on a former railyard between Curtis Park and the Union Pacific rail lines. The property is linked to Sacramento City College and a light-rail station by a pedestrian bridge that soars over the tracks.
At build-out, the Crocker Village site is expected to have more than 330 homes and a shopping area at its south end adjacent to Sutterville Road. A senior apartment complex and 45 brownstone-style row houses have been constructed.
Safeway agreed to locate a supermarket there, but only if the gas station was allowed. The city Planning Commission granted a conditional use permit for the station. The Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association, which opposed the station, appealed to the City Council.
In his lawsuit, Petrovich contended that Schenirer and city officials were biased against him and colluded to deny him a fair hearing. The Petrovich team displayed a series of emails and texts that they said, put together, show Schenirer worked with the SCNA to prepare a case against the gas station, and that Schenirer helped SCNA members lobby other council members.
City attorneys argued the city held a “robust” public discussion, and that the council concluded the station was incompatible with a nearby light rail station and that a fuel center would be detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of Curtis Park residents.
The judge did not address the question of whether the city had solid reasons to deny the permit. Instead, he focused on the fact that the council is required, when hearing an appeal, to conduct a judicial-style hearing, which requires council members to refrain from advocating for one side or the other before the hearing.
The judge said Schenirer had failed to do that.