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Renderings show the front, above, and back views of the proposed Gateway project. Courtesy renderings
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RSF Association approves Gateway project

RANCHO SANTA FE — Directors Allen Finkelson and Janet Danola opposed the commercial project.

The Gateway site will be at the existing gas station located on La Flecha.

RSF Association building commissioner Tom Farrar explained to the board that a vote was required on the Gateway project due to bonus floor area ratio (FAR) and variance. The 27,017-square-foot project proposal was up for a consideration boost to a 28,875-net size.

Farrar said that Gateway was currently on a .59-acre site and the proposal was to expand it to .62 acres. The project would contain three levels of subterranean parking with 138 spaces with provisions for a 5,000-square-foot market.

An estimated timeframe to complete the underground parking was 18 to 19 months.

The RSF Association board ultimately approved FAR because it met three of the four regulatory codes of the Association. Farrar noted that although the Gateway did surpass one story, it did meet the architecture standards of Lilian Rice with its Spanish colonial design with stucco and tile roof characteristics.

He also told the board that the design and architecture with wrought iron and distressed wooden doors harmonized with many buildings within the RSF Village along with the historic character of the community.

Another regulatory code addressed was that the project could not have less than 10 percent dedicated toward courtyards. Farrar pointed out that the Gateway project attributed for 13 percent.

“The main courtyard is in the center of this project,” he said, adding that the building focus was on the courtyard.

Lastly, a minimum of 25 percent of the regulatory guidelines was for retail on the lower floor, and the Gateway project exceeded this number by having 36 percent.

Farrar also shared that the variance would not in any manner vary the provisions of the governing documents.

In regard to bringing in a new market, Farrar shared that he believed that Landrock Development worked out a good solution.

Candidly, Finkelson shared that he was going to vote against the project, noting that he spent a lot of time thinking about it.

“I respect their (developer) intentions and their good faith in attempting to put in a market, but I believe this is a bad business deal,” he said. “The CDRC recommended that the board require a minimum of 5,000 square feet for a market and that is what various PR pieces have led you to believe that is what the Association is getting.”

Finkelson said this was quite the contrary.

“The deal we are voting on obligates the developer only to use his ‘commercially reasonable best efforts’ to lease 5,000 square feet to a grocer on a five-year lease,” he said.

Finkelson shared that the definition of “commercially reasonable best efforts” was not spelled out. Finkelson said he believed it may mean a long and expensive litigation.

Another issue Finkelson had was the six-month cut-off period to find a grocer. If after six months one could not be located, then the market space could be deemed retail.

Danola said she was going to vote no for the very same reasons.

Director Rick Sapp called Gateway a complex project and the largest in the Village. He also added that no deals are ever perfect and that the community should appreciate the fact that the developers would be looking for a market. And if one is found, the community has an obligation to support a market and make it a success.

“The burden has to fall on both parties,” he said. “It’s worth taking a shot.”

Fernando Landa of Landrock Development was on hand for comments. While he could not guarantee that a market would come to the Ranch, he said, he would guarantee that they would use their best efforts to try to get one.

Director Mike Licosati shared that the developer was taking a significant risk in keeping a potential market space vacant for the first six months while trying to recruit a grocer. He believed it served as a high incentive to locate one.

Landa agreed that 25 percent of their project may sit vacant for six months.

“It poses a risk, but we are willing to take it,” Landa said.