The unanimous vote came after several members of the community encouraged the council to reopen negotiations with the Liberty Union High School District for the possible use of district property adjacent to the site. That land, which now houses the tennis courts and swimming pool at Liberty High as well as the district's transportation facility, had been the subject of more than eight years of negotiations between the city and district.
Those talks broke off in June when the two sides were unable to agree on a price and other terms, resulting a re-tooling of a plan announced earlier this year that would have used school district land.
Resident Susan Wallace said at Tuesday's council meeting that the plan would make access to parts of Liberty High School too difficult, and asked that the two agencies resume talks.
"I talked with (LUHSD Superintendent Dan Smith) and he seemed like a reasonable guy, and I talked with the mayor, and he seemed reasonable," she said. "I'm wondering why two reasonable guys are talking to a soccer mom but not to each other. I think you're making a second-best decision for Brentwood."
The council also declined to delay the project while a proposed study by the Urban Land Institute was conducted on the possible relocation of Liberty High School from its current 51-acre site. Resident and developer Ron Nunn had proposed the study and offered to pays its $120,000 cost if the city put its Civic Center plans on hold.
He told the council that he was confident the study "will show a way that the city and school district can work together in regards to the relocation of Brentwood City Hall and all out buildings to the Liberty campus. The existing location of the Liberty High School campus is not practical for the current and future needs within the city of Brentwood."
Nunn said Wednesday that relocating Liberty could benefit the city in several ways. It could provide a better site for the Civic Center, add commercial and residential development that would enhance the downtown core's viability, and could be "worth a fortune to the city" if it purchased the site and resold parcels to developers.
Nunn distributed a letter from LUHSD President Holly Hartman saying the district would support the study, but that the support "does not indicate the district's desire or intent to eliminate or relocate Liberty High School … a cornerstone of the community for many, many years." Instead, it reflects a willingness to "to consider creative options to ensure the best facilities are available for our students." Support also came with the condition that the district "will be under no obligation to make changes based on the findings of the study," and that it would be conducted without cost to the district.
Councilman Erick Stonebarger said the study could result in a better Civic Center plan, and might be worth looking into. Councilman Chris Becnel, however, disagreed, saying attempts to work with the school district had gone on long enough.
"Let me be real clear about this delay," he said. "No, no, no." He pointed out that holding up the Civic Center would also delay other improvements slated for the downtown, which is already suffering from increased commercial competition from elsewhere in the city and region, and the preservation of which has long been a priority of residents.
The streetscape improvements are part of a financing package that includes the under-construction senior center on Balfour Road, two additional parking structures downtown and the construction of Summerset Park, among other amenities. Including the Civic Center, the improvements total $100 million.
City Manager Donna Landeros told the council that to put planning on hold while the study was done would result in a protracted delay in the completion of the civic center. "If the study takes six months, it could mean (a delay of) several years at a minimum," she said.
"A transition of Liberty may make sense in the long run, but it's at least 10 years out," Landeros added Wednesday. "Downtown can't wait 10 years. It needs an infusion of capital right now to help stimulate the private sector to also invest there."
In addition to the need to protect the downtown's viability, Landeros said that there's a growing need to provide city workers with better, roomier facilities. "How much longer can we continue to cram people into limited space?" she asked.
"We have people lining up to go to the bathroom at City Hall. The city has been planning for a new civic center for 12 years. We've been negotiating with the school district for (nearly) 10 years. At what point to you say it's time to pull the trigger? These buildings have outlived their usefulness."
Councilman Brandon Richey said that while some benefit might emerge from the study, there was a risk in constantly re-evaluating plans. "To endeavor for absolute perfection is going to have us looking at plans when my daughter is sitting up here instead of me," he said.
Councilman Bob Brockman agreed with a statement by Becnel that moving ahead with the plan "does not preclude" modifying it at a later date should a study reveal advantages in doing so.
The plan approved by the council places the new City Hall along what is now Maple Street, and council chambers at the corner of Second Street. A parking structure would be located east of City Hall, and a community center south of the parking structure. A refurbished City Park would encompass 2.9 acres, and the library would occupy the current city hall annex on the south side of Oak Street.
The next step in the Civic Center process will be an Aug. 30 public workshop to determine the layout and uses of City Park and of the community center, Landeros said. A review of the layout, design and uses of City Hall will be brought before the public in October.