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Passenger rail key to Windsor’s future

The Windsor train depot and transit center. JOHN BURGESS/PD

By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Windsor’s train station doesn’t have passenger rail service yet, but it’s already dictating how the town will grow over the next 20 to 25 years.

In a half-mile radius around the station, urban planners have come up with a vision to enhance the area “as the civic and cultural heart of the downtown.”

The station is considered integral to a transit-oriented future in which people live and work within walking distance of trains and buses.

“The whole point is to put density in a place where people have access to transit, so they can get by with fewer cars and be able to live and get services without having to drive. Near a SMART (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) station is the perfect place to do that,” said Mayor Debora Fudge, who also is a member of the SMART board of directors.

Almost three years after getting a $300,000 grant from the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission to help pay for it, the Windsor Town Council has approved its “Station Area Plan,” similar to train-centric plans finalized in Santa Rosa and Cloverdale.

The plan for the station, located at Windsor River Road and Windsor Road, about a block from the Town Green, revolves around passenger train service now projected to be in place from San Rafael to Santa Rosa by late 2015 or early 2016. Until trains run farther north to Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale, bus service is planned to take commuters to and from those stations to waiting trains in Santa Rosa.

With its relatively new and still incomplete Town Green Village, Windsor might seem to have little need to plan for development in its central core. But the Station Area Plan supersedes a 1997 document that ushered in the shops, town homes and row houses that sprang up around the four-acre Town Green.

It calls for increased housing density and “an enhanced public realm” with more parks, open spaces, streetscape improvements, outdoor dining and community gathering spots. It spells out development standards, zoning regulations and design guidelines.

“It’s all about smart growth, trying to build a more compact downtown,” said Planning Director Jim Bergman.

Fudge noted that the previous plan that allowed for increased density downtown had produced howls of protests among those who feared construction of ugly apartments.

“Fifteen years ago, there was a huge outcry,” she said. “There was no resistance this time.”

She said the creation of Town Green Village with its mix of ground floor businesses and townhomes dispelled doubts about higher housing densities.

However, some Town Green developments have struggled. Developer Oren Thiessen, who was one of the its leading proponents, had a number of properties fall into default last summer before filing for bankrupcty. One was a partially built project with businesses on the ground floor and residences overhead and others were completed buildings without enough tenants.

In the 390-acre area around the train station, the new plan allows as much as 30 units per acre and anticipates going from the current 2,800 population to 5,220 by the year 2035.

The existing 990 households would increase to 2,220. Commercial space would go from the existing 153,000 square feet to more than 900,000.

The plan encourages more educational uses, such as a Santa Rosa Junior College extension and strives to attract at least one hotel.

There are 46 acres of vacant land and an additional 36 acres that are considered under-utilized. That includes the civic center and the library — town-owned land that could be redeveloped or expanded.

In particular, council members want to see a new street built on the north side of the Town Green with commercial frontage, allowing for traffic circulation on all four sides of the public space, similar to the plazas in Healdsburg and Sonoma.

To ensure vibrancy, the plan calls for promoting more activities and attractions, such as restaurants, entertainment venues, art, culture and athletic events.

In approving the plan, council members expressed concerns about ensuring that the town can handle the increased vehicle traffic and greater demand for water.

“Because we have a plan doesn’t mean we will have another 90 units downtown tomorrow,” Fudge said.

Implementation, she said, will be “on a project-by-project basis as we have the resources and developers have the financing.”





15 Responses to “Passenger rail key to Windsor’s future”

  1. Smelly Fish says:

    I think Windsor did a great planning job over the past 15 years. They essentially created a whole town that has a aesthetic and functional unity about it. However hopes are dim if the town is going to rely on the train for it’s vitality and prosperity. I’m smelling the condos rotting into affordable/Section H housing in 20 years.

  2. truth in news says:

    When the minority makes a big enough stink to dictate policy we all lose. get ready to look back on the “good old days” when people were able to make their own choices, where to live, where to work, what to spend their money on. If the current trends continue our rights under the constitution will be eroded to the point where the rich and the poor will make the decisions destroying the middle.

  3. Skippy says:

    Better a jackboot vandal than a compliant Eloi.
    We do have designs on One Bay Area.
    We plan to kill it; skin it and bury it.
    The choice is clear; either Big Govt is crushed or we are.
    Game on!

  4. Kay Tokerud says:

    The public expressed strong disapproval at all 9 One Bay Area meetings. This is despite that the meetings were packed with insiders as was revealed by a video made of the Santa Rosa meeting. Members of the public at large expressed their concerns by making well-informed comments regarding the plan. Expressing dissent by speech including with signs is not civil disobediance. An occasional outburst is typical in a meeting where emotions are running hot. The people turned these Delphi meetings into town-hall style meetings.

    We resisted having them limit who could attend their meetings, we resisted signing in, we insisted on having them take public comments, we caused them to stop requiring nametags (this incriminated them), we refused to be herded into rooms where we were encouraged to vote on their ridiculous choices, we refused to be manipulated into accepting their plan and playing their game. The police were entirely wasting their time and should not have been brought in.

    Dissent is allowed in the United States. Civil disobediance is the next step in case normal dissent is not working. The Occupy people skipped a step and went straight for civil disobediance and got arrested. No one at any One Bay Area meetings were arrested. Occupiers can take a lesson from us older folks who know how to engage in the public process to express our grievances lawfully.

  5. Social Dis-Ease says:

    The Smart Train, Smart Growth, OneBayArea are socially engineered to undermine real estate, its value, and the citizen’s rights to same.

    The sooner we all reconcile all this municipal, fiscal, civil sabotage through the framework of the Agenda, the sooner we can go about the business of resisting the real issue of our time.

    We will create a public forum in which THE QUESTION can be addressed.

    This can be a civilized discussion in Council Chambers.

    Or it can resemble civil unrest (dis-ease) outside in front of City Hall.

    The Republican National Committee discussed it, soon Democrats will get a resolution (solution?), people across the world are discussing it.

    Considering how profoundly it shapes our policy, a well meaning public official should be proud to discuss it.

    How can you get answers if you don’t ask…THE QUESTION?

  6. John Reed: Actual brownshirts used knives, clubs and guns to wound and kill their opponents. The people who showed up at the One Bay Area charade used signs and heckles.

    Were they obnoxious? I wasn’t there, but from the video, I would say probably yes. Were they better behaved than the Occupy brats? Undoubtedly.

    Having been to many of these public planning meetings, making my points politely, and then seeing them totally ignored, since the outcome of these groupfests is as predetermined as an Iranian election, I don’t blame opponents for being a bit rowdy. If a few uncomfortable meetings are what it takes to prove that you fools don’t have a monopoly on vision, then so be it.

    Just put the tired brownshirt/jackboot cliches where they belong.

  7. Canthisbe says:

    If someone wants to live in a small apartment near a train so that they can get by without a car and enjoy all the benefits of Smart living in a high density urban area (and vagrants, drug dealers and psychotic panhandlers), wouldn’t it make more sense to live in San Fran or Oakland than to move to Windsor and wait 5 to 10 to never to see if that type of environment and a train finally arrives?

  8. Steve Klausner says:

    None of this high density housing was talked about when SMART was on the ballot. Most folks assumed all that land around would used for parking for them. They can walk the covenant use of SMART will be reserved for the new neighbors.

    And they are not going to be riding SMART everywhere they go. Expect traffic to get a lot worst.

    But here’s idea. No free rides, apply a transit fee to these new residences and businesses.

  9. John Reed says:

    Finally, a word about the brownshirt brigade who are storming the One Bay Area meetings. They should be ashamed. They deserve to be disciplined for their incivility and lack of respect for the people who put these events together and those of us who want to go and learn. I was appalled by the tactics of deliberate sabotage and intimidation done by the yahoos who are crashing these meetings. They are trying to pull on the liberal’s nose ring by claiming the mantle of free speech, but their actions are not free speech but an attempt to prevent others from exercising their free speech.
    A number of us have recommended to the event planners that they need to have police in the hall at the start of the meeting, announce the ground rules, and enforce them. Anyone who yells out of turn will be asked to wait for the Q&A section. If they persist they will be asked to leave. If they refuse to leave they will be removed by Officer Jones, and dumped on the street like a bum. I realize that many of these characters think that they are emulating Alinsky tactics by doing this kind of deliberate disruption of a public meeting, but they are mistaken in one key feature. When us lefties go to a public meeting to interrupt the proceedings, we are doing civil disobedience, and we expect that we will be removed or even arrested. We don’t expect to get off with no consequences. I support testing the resolve of these protestors to see if they are willing to pay the price of civil disobedience. Otherwise they are just jackboot vandals.

  10. I Hate To Be the One to Tell You says:

    But where are all of the jobs to support the people who are suppose to live in the little boxes and ride the little railroad to somewhere?

    None of this makes sense except to the fanacies of the political elite who shove this forward as the new green way to live.

    Windsor can’t get people to live in the apartments over the stores now. How will a train going nowhere change all of that?

    This is a giant ripoff of public funds and is very reminiscent of the tenements erected in the old German Democratic Republic and the old Soviet Union. Remember in those countries only the political elite owned cars. Eveyone else walked or took the train to the factory.

    Times may not have changed that much in the minds of the new socialists running Sonoma County.

  11. John Reed says:

    Even the devil can quote scripture, they say. That’s the first time I’ve read the Bible quoted to oppose Smart Growth. Really…c’mon.

    That’s a new wrinkle from the usual hyper-ventilated mouth-breathing responses from the Agenda 21 tin-foil hat crowd. Those folks have no idea how kooky they sound to those of us who have spent years studying urban design, smart growth, and sustainability issues. It’s all quite home-grown. Of course there are international standards evolving, but that’s a welcome development. Chill out, no one has designs on your liberty.

  12. I have a favorite term for this pizza shop below/dinky apartment above lifestyle: New York City. Unless I’m badly mistaken, ThiessenLand (aka Windsor Town Green) has a vacancy rate nearing 40%, so cloning this model looks like a formula for even deeper economic malaise.

    If you want to see the most egregious example of its failure, talk to the very nice people at Little New Yorker Pizza in Cotati. Their business is on the ground floor of the Frogsong apartments/commune/cooperative or whatever they call it. But in a college town, the Frogsong residents refuse to allow the pizza shop to sell pizza after 9PM weeknights because it apparently offends their refined greenie sensibilities.

  13. Phaedra says:

    Ever hear of “One Bay Area”? If not, you should look into it, as it will affect everyone in the nine bay area counties over the next 25 years.

    I have gone to two of the One Bay Area planning workshops, supposedly held to elicit “public response” regarding their plan. This was misrepresented by the press, but there was overwhelming negative public response at each of these nine workshops held in each county.

    Below are links to You Tube, where I have posted video footage of some of the One Bay Area meeting held in Marin County. Combined, there is about an hour and a half of footage. I recommend you view the entire series in order to find out what the plan is and what the public is speaking out against.

    http://youtu.be/Zpa6t-pO2b8
    http://youtu.be/YZ1E_qPpP4I
    http://youtu.be/5NK_Qhf2jrA
    http://youtu.be/rTosSJgw70I
    http://youtu.be/NDO4HUFJtag

  14. Social Dis-Ease says:

    MORE PROPAGANDA.
    The key to all of our futures is to recognize this oppression and kick ICLEI and this Agenda 21 crap out of our community.

    Join us as we ask our public officials the most relevant, important, pressing question of our time.

    What exactly is the public benefit of our allegiance to this globalist NGO?

    This movement is coming to be known as THE QUESTION.

    This Agenda being implemented in our communities socially engineers our decline.
    Our financial decline.
    The decline of our voice and sovereignty as individual communities.
    The decline of our Civil, Unalienable, and Property Rights.
    Pretty much everything we hold dear that is central to our ongoing.
    It is a municipal model of oppression.

    YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS WRONG.
    IT ISN’T A LEFT/RIGHT THING.
    IT’S AN AGENDA 21 THING.

  15. FedUp says:

    More central planning from the Agenda 21 Apparatchiks. All hail the glorious Party. They won’t be happy until we’re crammed together in crime infested ghettos (subsidized by the government no doubt).

    “Woe unto them who build house to house”, Isaiah 5:8