By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In a sign of a rebound in the construction of single-family homes, developers on Wednesday proposed as many as 90 new houses on land just north of the Windsor’s Wal-Mart, in a presentation greeted with enthusiasm by most of the Town Council.
Council members on a 4-1 vote gave tentative approval for the new version of “Hembree Village” to go forward, significant not only for what it says about an improving construction outlook, but for the return to the single-family detached homes that defined the housing boom in Windsor 20 years ago.
“It’s a great project to get the housing market going again,” said Mayor Robin Goble. “There’s very little inventory in Windsor for this style.
“I’m glad to see the wheels are turning again in the development community,” she said.
Developers acknowledged they may have surprised a lot of people by asking for a reduction in density on the 18-acre site, since several years ago the property owner was granted building allocations for 208 units, consisting of a three-story, 120-unit senior apartment complex and 88 “duets” and single-family homes.
But changing market conditions and apprehension that the town may have too many apartment projects in the pipeline has changed the climate in Windsor, which in the past dozen years has emphasized compact, higher density residences.
“I’m a little surprised I’m OK with this,” said Councilwoman Debora Fudge, who has championed “smart growth” like the townhomes built over storefronts that define Town Green Village.
But she said the solar power arrays that will be included on all houses in Hembree Village appeal to her and the project will blend in with the existing single-family home neighborhood just to the north.
Fudge said it is also farther away from the transit hub and station on the other side of Windsor that eventually will be served by passenger trains, in an area that is designated for higher population density.
Councilman Sam Salmon, the only dissenting voice on Wednesday, said “our needs are not really for market rate (housing) now.”
He said the town has a need for apartment and workforce housing and he is not convinced that several of such proposed projects that have languished for years will ever get built.
But developers said the new version of Hembree Village, is what buyers want.
“This will create a much needed single-family option for Windsor homebuyers,” said Niniv Tamimi, a Modesto real estate developer who is behind the new proposal for the site.
“The market has changed in the last six months. We believe it will continue to improve,” he said of the growing demand for detached homes.
He said the approximate $40 million project will be built by JKB Living, a home construction and solar company in Turlock.
The Windsor property is owned by Rich McClish, a longtime North Bay construction contractor.
Developers are hoping to begin construction in June 2015 and finish by late 2016. They still must get approval for a general plan amendment and other changes that will be subject to public hearings.
Councilman Bruce Okrepkie called the new plan “a breath of fresh air” compared to the “compact and dense” housing proposed there before.
“It’s a move in the right direction. What we had there before was a bit of a mish mash,” said Councilman Steve Allen.
The property has had several different versions of residential development proposed over the past decade, with either apartments or a mixture of multi-family and single family, but none got off the ground.
Neighbors appeared to welcome the new plan.
The previous “very large intensive development didn’t seem to make sense,” said Barry Weinert, an adjacent resident. “I think everyone in the neighborhood is supportive of the change.”
He suggested however that the town seek evidence of the financial viability of the project and applicants so “it doesn’t stop and start.”
The existing site has three single family homes and various outbuildings destined for removal.
A row of trees on the northern end of the property as well as a large oak tree along Victory Lane would be preserved.
The site is relatively flat and includes some frontage along Pool Creek, as well as a trailhead for Faught Creek.
Developers say they hope to produce a project with cutting edge energy conservation and sustainability features.
“We are pleased to present the most environmentally sensitive subdivision in Sonoma County history,” Tamimi asserted in his comments to the council.
Each home would have a complete photovoltaic solar system, have drought tolerant landscaping and designed to meet or exceed Build it Green standards.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or email@example.com