Revised Scott Ranch development, Putnam expansion going to Council for first look
A revised single-family housing project that would add 44 acres to Helen Putnam Regional Park and build 28 homes debuted before Petaluma Planning Commission Tuesday night, providing the first public foray into the protracted Scott Ranch development’s newest iteration.
Commissioners spent more than two hours discussing the report and hearing public comments, serving as the first set of eyes to review the draft environmental impact report that took years to complete. All commissioners voted to recommend the extensive draft document move forward, up the proverbial pipeline to eventual City Council review and a final decision.
The west-side 58-acre property, hemmed in by the regional park on one side and Windsor Drive and D Street on the other, has been locked in limbo for decades as owners tried to secure approval from Petaluma officials to develop the environmentally sensitive land. East Bay developer Davidon Homes first proposed the addition of 93 houses, then 66, before striking a deal with the Kelly Creek Protection Project that would add 44-acres to Helen Putnam Regional Park, in addition to 28 Davidon Homes.
Greg Colvin, director of Kelly Creek Protection Project, has been working to preserve the parcel’s gem-green hills since 2005. After many negotiations, he was relieved to get the commission’s OK to send the plan on for council review.
“The environmental report governing the Scott Ranch property has come before the Planning Commission and City Council a few times in the last eight years, and each time we haven’t been able to get past this point before, so we feel like we’re over one hurdle,” he said.
Tied together through the purchase agreement, the park extension’s future lies on the developer’s ability to win approval for its 28 homes, which would then transfer 44 acres to Kelly Creek Protection Project to convey to Sonoma County Regional Parks for full ownership and operation.
Carol Eber, chair of the board of directors for Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, shared her strong approval of the renewed project at Tuesday night’s meeting, assuring wary members of the public that the proposed addition will be able to secure funding.
“I want to stress the Regional Parks Foundation is a fundraising nonprofit organization, and we are committed to raising funds to support the additional 44 acres and its development,” she said. “We’ve already raised thousands and thousands of dollars for the development of Helen Putnam Park.”
Eber also countered that the park addition will improve access and offer more parking lot space, though several residents of nearby neighborhoods warned commissioners that more trails would lead to more visitors and congested streets.
Parking in the area has long been a sensitive nerve, as hikers routinely choose to park along residential streets in the Victoria Subdivision and Pinnacle Heights Subdivision, instead of the paid parking lot off Chileno Valley Road. Increased traffic and parking woes dominated much of the public criticisms of the project, and is likely to resurface as the project inches toward a City Council debate.
Tina Vani, who lives on D Street, called in Tuesday to oppose the project, taking issue with the modified development’s proximity to her yard and raising concerns that the extension of the park will lead to overcrowding and increased traffic on her street.
“I actually am highly opposed to this project,” she said. “I think the alternative of no homes and no park should be the one chosen. I think the land should just remain untouched.”
The land was purchased by Davidon Homes in 2004 for $7.8 million, which has attempted to develop it ever since. After its 2017 proposal to erect 66 homes failed to win over city leaders, conservationists with Kelly Creek Protection Project offered a compromise. After falling short of its original $11 million goal to secure the entire 58 acres, the group managed to raise enough to buy three-quarters of the property, while Davidon scaled down its development proposal by more than half.
The park extension plans call for restoration of the iconic barns, new trails that connect into the 256-acre Helen Putnam Regional Park, a parking lot with restrooms and a native butterfly garden. Plans for the 28 homes include the installation of a roundabout on D Street where it meets Windsor Drive.
In addition to environmental impacts, the draft report included traffic analysis, wildfire evacuation routes and fire mitigation strategies.
Vice Chair Scott Alonso raised pointed questions over the report’s findings on evacuation routes and fire scenarios, some of them echoed by Commissioner Blake Hooper, both requesting staff offer further information in the environmental report.
Commissioner Bauer suggested a wildfire expert join the next Planning Commission meeting to discuss the final environmental report, expected sometime this year.
Representatives of Kelly Creek Protection Project say they expect the draft report will head to City Council sometime in the next few months.
(Contact Kathryn Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)