Target is kaput in Scotts Valley. The Minneapolis-based retail giant pulled out of its contract to build on La Madrona Drive last week.
However, property owner Title Two Investment Corp. has its sights set on another as-yet-unnamed retailer to build the proposed 143,000-square-foot store.
The city of Scotts Valley learned in an Oct. 27 e-mail to Susan Westman, director of Community Development, that Target is no longer under contract to acquire the La Madrona Drive property.
Title Two is proceeding with an application to allow a retail business of the same size to build on the property, Westman said.
The landowner requested that any mention of “Target” be taken out of the draft environmental impact report prepared by the city and replaced with the words “retail store.”
Target filed an application in October 2007 to build on the 18 acres of empty land next to the Hilton hotel in Scotts Valley.
Vice Mayor Jim Reed said the company backed out of its plans because of the unstable economy and the price tag to develop the hillside property. Reed said Target officials told the city it would cost $10 million more to develop the Scotts Valley site than other potential sites.
Reed, who has had recent phone conversations with Target representatives, announced the corporation’s withdrawal at the City Council’s Wednesday, Nov. 4, meeting.
“Target has no plans to be part of this project,” Reed said. It’s not a cost they’re willing to absorb right now.”
Target will explore other locations in Santa Cruz County, Reed added.
City leaders now worry about the dilemma of deciphering the benefit of an unknown retail store in the community.
“The change doesn’t make things easier,” Reed said. “It complicates a process that hasn’t been simple. How are we supposed to make an informed decision without knowing what’s going to be there?”
Councilman Dene Bustichi called the draft environmental study and economic report worthless, because data that fits Target may not work for other retail businesses.
“How do you do an economic study that assumes 25 different kinds of retailers that could be in this scenario?” Bustichi asked rhetorically.
The draft environmental impact report for a Target store was released in September. An accompanying economic study estimated the retailer would pull in an additional $489,000 in sales tax revenue for Scotts Valley.
The Target pullout is the latest setback for San Francisco-based Title Two.
In July, Scotts Valley began to foreclose on the property after Title Two failed to pay more than $300,000 in back property taxes. The company forked over the money in October to stave off the proceedings.
The conclusion of the entrenched battle over the retail giant’s proposed presence in Scotts Valley was met with passionate reactions from businesses and community members.
Scotts Valley resident Paul Bach, a fierce Target adversary, said he was thrilled to hear of the big-box store’s withdrawal.
“This is good news,” Bach said.
During this week’s council meeting, Bach demanded that the City Council stop the entire retail proposal and scrap the draft environmental impact report, because it was created specifically for problems tied to Target, including parking and traffic. Bach argued that the report is no longer legal under the California Environmental Quality Act, because it was written specifically for the retailer.
“You can’t ask citizens to respond when the data is simply not there,” Bach said. “The traffic and economic studies were specific to Target, and new studies would need to be funded, conducted and released for public comment.”
Another Target opponent, Frank Kertai, said the project is hugely unstable and that he opposes any retailer at the La Madrona Drive site.
“This is the biggest project in the history of this city, but everything about it is extremely flawed,” Kertai said. “The traffic impacts alone would be grossly understated.”
Other residents expressed worries about what a big-box store would mean for the families, animals and businesses near the La Madrona Drive property.
Wednesday was the planned deadline for public comment on the environmental impact report. The council extended the comment period another 45 days in light of the change from Target to an unknown retailer.
“The fear of the unknown is definitely at play here, both for the members of the community and the members of the council,” Mayor Randy Johnson said. “It’s quite a turn of events.”
Editors Note: This story was modified from it’s original version on Nov. 10, 2009

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