By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Windsor, a town that once worried about rampant growth, has seen residential construction slow dramatically, to the point that no new homes have been built this year.
But when the economy improves, that could change quickly with the backlog of 1,200 dwelling units with tentative and final approvals.
“We’re cautiously doling out allocations because there are 1,200 in the wings,” she said of the council’s approach to new applications.
The zero residential permits pulled or finalized in 2012 is a first for Windsor since it incorporated in 1992.
“Windsor was hysterical about rampant growth 20 years ago,” Fudge said. “Back in the years when we had 1,000 homes a year being built that was one of the reasons we wanted to incorporate.”
“We’ve come a long ways. It’s an interesting time,” she said.
New residential construction is in the doldrums in the North Bay and many other parts of the country as well.
In the first six months of this year, Sonoma County builders obtained permits to build 210 houses, apartment and condominium units, their worst year in decades, according to data from the California Homebuilding Foundation.
That compares to a rough average of 2,200 new homes per year in the county over the last quarter century.
Windsor has seen a precipitous decline since 2005, when 229 new permits were issued. Last year, only 66 permits were finalized and that was for Windsor Redwoods, a heavily subsidized apartment project off Old Redwood Highway.
Town Council members have expressed qualms about the trend toward apartment projects as developers have retooled to build rental units instead of owner-occupied homes.
“I’m very concerned with the number of projects we have in the pipeline wanting to go forward,” Councilman Sam Salmon said this week.
He cited Windsor Mill, the 360- to 400-unit apartment complex planned southeast of the future train station downtown, as well as Bell Village, with 387 rental apartments opposite the Town Green, on the old Windsorland mobile home park site.
Salmon said the traffic may be hard to handle once they are built. “It can mean sitting in front of traffic lights all the time and being upset,” he said.
In general, however, the annual growth report found the town’s public works system is adequate to accommodate future needs.
The water and wastewater treatment systems can handle demands through 2020, although there are some exceptions, including the need to increase water storage capacity by two million gallons, according to town staff members.
Council members this week were split on a couple projects and debated the merits of their conceptual designs.
On a 3-1 vote, Robin Goble dissenting and Steve Allen absent, the council agreed to reserve some building permit allocations in 2013 for the 36-unit Esposti Park apartment project proposed off Old Redwood Highway north of Shiloh Road.
“I don’t find it particularly meritorious. I think we have plenty of apartments in line,” said Goble.
The council also was unwilling to allocate more building permits next year to Hembree Village, a 17-acre project comprised of 120 senior apartments and 83 single-family homes immediately north of Wal-mart. It’s been revised several times and previously received some allocations.
Salmon cited an excessive number of single-family homes proposed there. Council members said it needed more work.
On a 3-1 vote, Salmon dissenting, the council agreed to allocate more building permits for Hembree Village, but not until 2014.