Housing projects boom

A number of large-scale residential or mixed-use developments are set to come before the newly elected City Council for review in 2013.

One reason for the sudden surge in projects seems to be the city's recent decision to lower development impact fees, which several developers said encouraged them to move forward.

Among the projects are a 300-unit apartment complex that has been in the pipeline for several years, a 120-room hotel adjacent to the Petaluma River, and a $65 million waterfront development north of Petaluma's downtown.

In addition, a developer filed an application with the city for a 140-unit apartment complex on Maria Drive just last month and Walgreens has plans for a new store at the corner of North McDowell Boulevard and Lynch Creek Way, adjacent to the recently approved home improvement site.

"These projects aren't on the same scale as a Deer Creek or a Regency," said Deputy Planning manager Heather Hines, referring to the Friedman's and Target shopping centers that were recently approved. "But there is certainly going to be a lot of activity coming up for review in the near future."

The largest project set for formal review in 2013 is the Basin Street riverside property next to the Petaluma River west of Highway 101, which features a 120-room hotel, 30,000 square feet of retail space with approximately 100 apartment units, 60,000 square feet of office space, 40 town homes and 135 single-family homes. The 35.7-acre parcel is also slated to have 6.5 acres of park space and a boathouse for the Petaluma Small Craft Center Coalition.

When the project was first proposed, a major concern was that the site only had one access road, Caulfield Lane. Paul Andronico, senior vice president for Basin Street Properties, said that Caulfield Lane became a major concern for the fire marshal, who worried about the ability of emergency vehicles to access the site. Andronico said that the developers have worked hard to come up with solutions to address site accessibility concerns, including widening the road and building additional emergency vehicle access points to the property.

"We've worked extensively with city staff and an outside fire consultant to create solutions," Andronico said. He added that Basin Street's formal application has been mostly completed and that the company expects the project to go before the City Council for review sometime in early 2013.

Andronico said that because his group has tried to keep the project consistent with the city's general plan guidelines for mixed-use developments, he does not believe at this time that an environmental review will be required. He added that Basin Street hopes to break ground in 2014, if all goes according to plan.

The city's recent decision to lower building impact fees, Andronico said, has made their project much more likely to get financing. In addition, most City Council members have expressed a desire to see new hotels in Petaluma, as a way for the city's strapped general fund budget to receive a boost in the form of hotel tax revenue, and many speculate that the council's new, business-friendly majority will be receptive to the project.

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