That Goes On Behind Closed Doors?

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The thick file also contained a few response letters from city planners, letters requested by Gosnell that "interpreted" the language of the zoning stipulation. Most of Gosnell's claims matched the staff's interpretations.

So the crowd was skeptical, to say the least, when Nadolski insisted Gosnell had it all wrong. That he'd misstated their deal and that somebody--she'd later say it was Mayor Goddard--had pressured the staff to give Gosnell what he wanted.

Goddard denies the accusation. "I absolutely didn't. The language of the zoning stipulation isn't a model of clarity. I did ask the staff to straighten things out, to be as clear as possible."

Nadolski insisted she would never have cut a deal to give Bob Gosnell the store. Yes, he might eventually get more office space, "but only after the specific plan was completed," she insisted, not before. No, he never was to get anything automatically without public review, based on an economic study by a hired consultant. "It was never my intent to give any of the legislative powers of the council to a consultant," she maintained, saying she was asking the city attorney for a ruling on whether the council could even legally do that. That didn't stop the attack on this first-term councilmember who'd been elected as a "neighborhood advocate" and who thought she'd pulled off a major coup a year ago when she got Gosnell to bend. Not only had she forced him to cut his office project in half, she'd also used the case to create the 44th Street Specific Plan Committee and gotten Gosnell to chip in $50,000 for the economic study. Frankly, she thought she'd done a good job for the neighborhood. And only recently, she told the crowd, had she found out "through the gravevine" that everything had gone to hell.

"There are all these letters from Gosnell's people about the deal," said a stern Velma Dunn, who sells real estate around the Gateway Center. "But there's not one letter of denial. If you didn't agree with Gosnell, why didn't you write back and say, `Hey, Gosnell, you're full of bull'?"

Nadolski leaned forward. "As far as telling Gosnell he's full of bull, I spent two and a half years doing that. The letters I got were nothing different than I'd heard from him for years. I threw the letters away. I don't owe Gosnell a letter."

She now wishes she had. At least one more. And Nadolski is getting little help from Mayor Terry Goddard.

"I respect Linda's recollection [of the private May 4 meeting], but mine is different," he says. "The [zoning] stipulation was drafted by Linda as a compromise at the last minute. [Gosnell] would get 650,000 square feet immediately and then after the study, based on traffic and demand, the extra square footage would go to him. There was a lot of discussion on the record about what this proposal would be." But in a later interview, the mayor notes that things aren't as clear as they should be. There's an "interpretation problem" with what the council passed and how Gosnell now sees it, he says. (Goddard isn't surprised by the mountains of correspondence from Gosnell. "There's always lots of letters when Gosnell is concerned," he explains. "It's a negotiating tactic he uses. There's always a lot of sword rattling.")

Former Planning Commission chairman Bob Kerrick remembers he got a call from Nadolski on May 4, shortly after the "agreement" meeting broke up. "Linda was trying to be a peacemaker. Her attempt was to do something positive," he says. "She wanted the commission to know they'd made peace. That they'd worked out a deal everyone could live with." Kerrick says he doesn't remember the particulars, but understood Gosnell's office space would increase "if certain things occurred."

"Once [the case] got to us, since Linda had sprinkled holy water on the deal--it was her district and if anyone was to be a naysayer, it would be her--it was a fait accompli," Kerrick explains.

So did Nadolski blow it, cutting a deal she didn't understand with her old nemesis?

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Jana Bommersbach