Now that the city of Tracy is in the process of “unwinding” a development agreement between the city and Surland Communities LLC, the Tracy City Council is also considering how to move forward on the aquatics center that was a key feature of that agreement.

The council is dealing with the aftermath of a court ruling against the city and the developer in the case of Mitracos vs. City of Tracy and Surland Communities LLC, in which a San Joaquin County Superior Court judge declared in February 2020 that the city violated the California Government Code when it amended a development agreement with Surland, allowing the developer to potentially secure more residential growth allotments (RGAs) than were needed to complete the Ellis development at the south end of town.

On Tuesday the Tracy City Council voted 4-0 to rescind a series of resolutions that previous councils had approved before the amended portion of the development agreement was invalidated.

Among those resolutions was an action from August 2020 when the Tracy City Council approved the Final Aquatic Center Conceptual Plan, which envisions a center with a competition pool, lazy river feature, waterslides and recreational pool, all for a cost of about $65 million.

Before rescinding that resolution the council sought assurances from the city attorney and city staff that the basic concept of the aquatics center and the budget and funding for the project would remain in place, and that the city could move forward on the project, be it a reimagined project or something similar to what the council endorsed in August 2020.

“The ideas and concepts of the conceptual plan are still in the public domain,” Assistant City Manager Karin Schnaider told the council. “They happened in a public meeting and were prioritized by council. The actual drawings and renderings that went into those are what is no longer part of what we’re having to use, and the city will move forward without that.”

“We have been working with a new program and talking with other vendors to look at a way to streamline these and take those ideas that were already approved by the council, prioritized by the council, and start putting them into our own design-build options, and we should go out to bid for that as quickly as possible.”

Discussions regarding a new community swim center date back to the Tracy Tomorrow citizen planning processes of 2000 and 2005. Surland proposed the aquatics park as the centerpiece of its Ellis development when the developer first submitted land use applications for Ellis in 2007.

A 2013 development agreement between the city and Surland allowed the developer to have priority for 225 residential growth allotments (RGAs) per-year for Ellis. In return, Surland would give the city $10 million toward design and construction of a city aquatics center plus 16 acres on which to build the center.

The 2018 amendment, which city officials refer to as the “second amendment” to the 2013 agreement, would have allowed Ellis to get up to 2,250 RGAs, with the potential use of those RGAs, which serve as priority status for taking out building permits for new homes, on properties outside of Ellis, pending subsequent development agreements. It also gave Surland control over design and construction of the aquatics center.

The lawsuit filed by former Councilwoman Mary Mitracos and local attorney Mark Connolly in response to the 2018 amendment challenged the proposed distribution of RGAs. It also required the city to take back control over design and construction of the aquatics center, considering that regardless of who controlled the project – the city or the developer – it would still be mostly city money paying for it.

In November of 2019 the developer presented the city with a series of options for the center, including a $130 million version. Rather than commit to that price tag the council set a limit of $65 million for the center, with the funding coming mostly from Measure V sales tax revenue.

City Attorney Bijal Patel noted that the council has already rescinded the second amendment itself as of its Sept. 6 meeting, though the 2013 agreement stays in place, affirming the city’s per-year commitment for reserving RGAs for Ellis, and Surland’s commitment to donate $10 million and 16 acres for the aquatics center.

In addition to rescinding the resolution on the aquatics center conceptual plan the council also rescinded two resolutions that would defer payment of some impact fees in the Ellis project.

“We continue to work actively to identify other actions, so this is not a complete list. We anticipate having more items at future meetings, but this is what we have right now,” Patel told the council.

The council voted 4-0 on the series of resolutions, with Councilwoman Eleassia Davis recusing herself from the discussion and the vote because she owns property in the area.

Schnaider said the council will be asked to consider formal acceptance of the 16-acre land dedication, scheduled for the council’s Oct. 4 meeting. The city also had budgeted $55 million for the project and plans to accept the other $10 million from Surland.

“We can go right into the design-build after an RFP (request for proposals) process so that we can quickly move forward with that,” Schnaider told the council.

The council wanted to know what the new timeframe for design and construction, and completion, would be.

“I just want a year and a quarter,” said Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas, adding that she also wanted to know if the work of previous city committees could be used.

Parks and Recreation Director Brian MacDonald added that the design work could take about a year, and a single design-build contract could take less time to complete than two separate contracts, one for design and the other for construction.

“As far as a construction schedule, I don’t have that information yet,” MacDonald said.

Schnaider added that the city is also in a position now where it can reconsider the scope of the aquatics center design, and the budget for the project.

“That’s one of the things will be asking you: Do you as a council want to stay at $65 million, or will you be willing to move that knowing that inflation costs have moved up?”

Pete Mitracos, Mary Mitracos’ husband and a former planning commissioner, told the council that the existing plans reflect the developer’s wishes, with the city picking up most of the cost.

“Now you have the opportunity not to expand the budget, but to contract it and make a facility that we can afford that provides the basic needs of this community,” he said.

Marsha McCray told the council that enough work has been done on the aquatics center, including public workshops, that the city should be able to wrap up the project sooner than later.

“As one of the original supporters of the aquatics center when we first started this effort about 17 or 18 years ago, I’m here to encourage this council to take this community project over the finish line,” she told the council.

“Over the years as the populace of Tracy has increased the need for additional aquatics facilities has continued to grow, but the available aquatic resources and programming available to Tracy residents has remained the same during the entirety of that time,” she added.

“An entire generation of Tracy children have started elementary school, finished high school and moved on to pursue a college education or careers, many of which are outside of this community, without ever having seen the aquatics center come to fruition.”

“I urge this council to readopt the design that was the result of community input. A design that was repeatedly vetted to provide the most amenities to meet the community’s expectations of a family friendly venue that will provide greater capabilities of swim lessons as well as health, recreational and competitive opportunities.”

• Contact Bob Brownne at, or call 209-830-4227.

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