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Dormant Petaluma housing project back for vote

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Petaluma’s Planning Commission on Tuesday will take public comment on the draft environmental impact report for a proposed 93-unit housing subdivision on the western edge of town, adjacent to Helen Putnam Regional Park.

The project, proposed by Davidon Homes of Walnut Creek, is returning after having been shelved in 2007. At that time, the City Council indicated it wanted to scale down the proposal but stopped short of setting a cap on the number of homes that would be allowed.

Petalumans for Responsible Planning has been coordinating opposition to the project, as it did in the mid-2000s.

A view of the Davidon Homes property taken in the fall of 2012. (John O'Hara / Petaluma Argus-Courier)

A view of the Davidon Homes property taken in the fall of 2012. (John O’Hara / Petaluma Argus-Courier)

They argue the former Scott Ranch farmland is too beautiful to be heavily developed and a project of this magnitude would bring noise, traffic, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage to the area. They also want to protect historic red barns on the site.

Davidon proposes building 93 upscale homes over about 60 acres on two parcels at Windsor Drive and D Street. The site is adjacent to the regional park and homes on Oxford Court, where some of the opposition leaders live.

A trail from the project site would run along Kelly Creek to the park.

Several issues are likely to stand out in Tuesday’s discussion, including the project’s impact on scenic vistas, its effects on the California red-legged frog and its consistency with the city’s general plan.

The draft EIR determined that the impacts that require the most substantial mitigation — the visual impact and effects on the frog — could mean the elimination of as many as 29 of the planned homes.

The report notes alternative projects that would have fewer impacts on the community, all with fewer homes. Those alternatives include options with 66, 47 and 28 homes, or no project at all.

Since Davidon finalized its application with the city in 2004, the project may be judged through planning rules in effect at that time.

In 2008, the city updated its general plan, which changed some zoning policies that could affect this project.

Critics of the project want it to adhere to today’s general plan, the guiding document for development and growth for every parcel in city limits. They argue that the current general plan “has specific safeguards for the environmental qualities of this location on Kelly Creek.”

A staff report to planning commissioners said the project is subject to a state law that states the city “shall apply only those ordinances, policies and standards in effect on the date the local agency has determined that the application is complete.”

Planning commissioners will evaluate the report, take public comment and determine if the draft EIR is sufficient. They will not vote on zoning changes or specifics of the project.

Their recommendations will be forwarded to the city council for its consideration, possibly in April. The final EIR with responses to comments could be completed late this year, followed by review by the planning commission and city council.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 11 English St.

(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.)





7 Responses to “Dormant Petaluma housing project back for vote”

  1. MARILYN says:

    THE SO-CALLED PLANNERS ARE MAKING THIS TOWN UGLY. THE HOMES AT THE END OF THE BLVD, THE APARTMENTS TOO CLOSE TO THE ROAD NEAR THE P.D STATION. THEY NEED TO BE FIRED. SAVE OUR OPEN SPACE. I HAVE BEEN WALKING THERE FOR 18 YEARS. EVEN THE NEW SHOPPING CENTER . NO MORE SMALL TOWN FEEL AND EMPTY STORE FRONTS CONTINUE…

  2. Over Easy says:

    NIMBY’S unite, tonight we meet at the Whole Foods for a trade free java in a 100% recycled challis. Then we fire up the Prius’s and circle city hall till they hear our war cry.

  3. James Bennett says:

    Snarky: In a town or county that is signed up as an ICLEI charter, a ‘planner’ is an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat trained to subvert your property rights and reconcile approvals/planning based on the UN sponsored guides. like Growing Smart and the Local Agenda 21 Planning Guide.

    Through implementing all manner of administrative ‘hoops’, they can go a long way towards neutering small business too.

    Between their ‘services’, code enforcement and an adherent spineless council, city manager and a press that’s totally ‘on the program’; you’ve got all the makings for…well, what we have now.

    Sonoma County; what would otherwise be one of the most desirable places on the planet…Wine Country, dying on the vine.

  4. Snarky says:

    This brings up my repeated question, and one that the Press Demo never covers, is:

    Just WHAT is a government “planner” other than a job title ?

    How shocked would the public be to see how little private sector / actual employment skills, academic skills, and experience…. to “plan” anything that interferes with our daily life?

    Job titles mean nothing. Its what that person has accomplished in life that provides the needed abilities, skill sets, and knowledge to “plan” anything.

    I cringe when I recall the “planners” approving the golf driving range along highway 12… watching that business owner build it, and then lose his financial shirt as the same “planners” and government idiots changed their mind about the location approval AFTER they had already approved it!

  5. farmer west says:

    The city needs to respect the Urban Growth Boundry which passed by nearly 80% of the voters.The UGB is the stopping point for development. All areas within the boundry must be built out to the maximum to protect our rural areas. The density is one home per half acre, which is not a high density neighborhood.
    The protestors are a bunch of NIMBIES, come on, they all live in Victoria, which would never have been built if they lived next door.

  6. "Shall" or "May"? says:

    “A staff report to planning commissioners said the project is subject to a state law that states the city “shall apply only those ordinances, policies and standards in effect on the date the local agency has determined that the application is complete.”

    “Since Davidon finalized its application with the city in 2004, the project may be judged through planning rules in effect at that time.”

    So the question is, does the interpretation of state law trump our interest in ensuring the project is in accordance with our current General Plan? On the face of it, “it seems very absurd for the developer to “have their cake and eat it too”.

    If in fact the application for the project was complete in 2004, why has the developer waited so long to move forward? Probably because it was deemed to risky given the economy. So now that the economy is coming back, they get to move forward with less risk while we accept the impacts?

    In good faith, new projects going forward should respect our current General Plan, regardless of whether they are required. The fact is that many components of the General Plan with respect to development in this region evolved because of past mistakes (e.g. Victoria).

    So we’re supposed to simply pretend none of that matters because back in 2004 the developer completed an application?

  7. Wilson says:

    This project violates Petaluma’s General Plan by being built away from existing schools, stores, etc. Plus, we don’t have enough water available for what we already have.

    Plus it’s not needed.