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Nestlé can legally set up bottling plant, city attorney says

By Kathleen Haley, Sacramento Press, October 27, 2009

Nestlé has a green light in Sacramento, according to the city attorney’s office.

The Nestlé company’s work to set up a water bottling plant in Sacramento is allowed under the city’s existing laws, City Attorney Eileen Teichert’s office said Tuesday.

It was clear at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the City Council and city staff are on-board with the Nestlé company’s plans to bottle and sell tens of millions of gallons of Sacramento’s water.

The city had placed a stop-work order on Friday at the plant on Nestlé intends to use for its operations. The city said it wanted to verify whether Nestlé had broken any of the city’s permitting and building laws. In turn, Nestle had said the city’s decision to release a stop-work order may have been illegal.

The stop-work order will now be removed. Some of the work that was being carried out at the site can continue as soon as tomorrow, according to Acting Community Development Director David Kwong. He said the company must still follow a process and timeline with the city to start work on other tasks to retrofit the plant, which is located at 8670 Younger Creek Drive.

The city is stopping the Facilities Permit Program that Nestlé was accepted under. City staff officials told the City Council Tuesday that the permitting program is not up to date with city building codes. Councilman Kevin McCarty indicated in a phone interview after the meeting that there may be significant problems with the program, calling it a “can of worms that’s being opened.”

During the meeting, Shaina Meiners of Sacramento spoke against Nestlé’s water bottling business. “I am aghast that Nestlé can come in, in this very secretive way,” Meiners said.

Matt Mahood of the Sacramento Metro Chamber was in favor of Nestle’s plant. He noted that the unemployment rate in Sacramento is approaching 12 percent. Rules cannot be changed on companies mid-stream, he said.

Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell said staff did not inform the City Council about early developments with Nestle’s plans to build in Sacramento. She asked, “Why weren’t we briefed?”

The discussion at the City Council meeting changed in light of Teichert’s analysis that Nestlé did not break laws. Councilman Kevin McCarty had proposed an interim urgency ordinance to mandate special permits for beverage bottling plants in the city. The ordinance would enable the Planning Commission or City Council to examine plans to expand or build beverage bottling plants. Nestle’s plans were not considered by the Planning Commission or the City Council; the city’s current rules did not require Nestle to go through that step.

McCarty’s proposal no longer applied to Nestlé after Teichert’s legal opinion.

However, McCarty’s proposal is not dead. Instead, it will consider future water bottling plants. The proposal will be moved to the city’s Law and Legislation Committee.

Along with McCarty’s proposal, the council decided it also wanted Law and Legislation to examine the issue of tiered water rates.

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