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Dormant Petaluma housing project back for vote

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 3:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 3:21 p.m.

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.

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.)

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