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West Petaluma luxury homes development advances

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A long-stalled housing development proposed in the western outskirts of Petaluma took a small step forward Tuesday amid concerns expressed by the city’s Planning Commission. Officials were skeptical about a medley of issues surrounding environmental, aesthetic and traffic impacts in the draft environmental impact report for the subdivision.

At issue is a proposal by Walnut Creek luxury home developer Davidon Homes for as many as 66 single family homes on a 58-acre parcel at Windsor and D streets, near Helen Putnam Regional Park. The project was first proposed in 2004, when the developer submitted an application for 93 homes.

After a draft EIR presented in 2013 was widely criticized, Davidon Homes submitted new plans with options for 66 or 63 homes. A revised draft EIR discussing the impacts of that proposal and alternatives with 47 homes or 28 homes was released March 2.

After a more than four-hour meeting Tuesday, the commission voted 6-0 to recommend the city council authorize staff to prepare a final EIR, with the condition that it would provide an analysis of an alternative plan with no development south of Kelly Creek.

The commission recommended the final report contain details on issues including measures to save energy and quell greenhouse gas emissions, details about geological impacts, the feasibility of moving red barns on the property, feedback from environmental agencies and plans for wastewater and trees.

“I think it might be appropriate to have a development there, but I don’t have a report that’s helping me analyze that with confidence at this point,” Commissioner Gina Benedetti-Petnic said.

The draft EIR with comments from the commission and the public will be presented to the city council, possibly as soon as next month.

“What happened last time is the planning commission said ‘We’re not ready to say this is adequate, we’ll wait and make that decision when we see the final EIR and see if all the questions and comments have been adequately addressed,’” Planning Manager Heather Hines said. “We took that direction up to the council and presented the document … We will do the same thing this time around.”

Depending on the council’s vote, a final EIR with responses to comments and questions would come next. The planning commission would review the document and the city council would then vote on its adequacy.

Steve Abbs, Davidon Homes’ vice president of land acquisition and development, said the draft EIR is “well written, clear and comprehensive” and the plans are “well designed.”

“We look forward to working with the city and implementing the vision the city has for this property in regards to housing, open space and the trail system,” he said. “This is a big milestone for us to be here.”

An overflow crowd of residents and environmental groups starkly opposed the proposal Tuesday.

Petalumans for Responsible Planning, which has organized opposition to the project for more than a decade, expressed dissatisfaction with the draft EIR. They also said the development would congest traffic, increase the risk of landslides, mudslides and pollution and jeopardize barns on the property while harming Kelly Creek and sensitive native species, including a red-legged tree frog.

The group in 2006 received a $1 million donation to help purchase the property for preservation, president Sherri Fabre-Marcia said.

“People want this land to be part of Helen Putnam Park ... How can an out-of-town developer come into town and destroy one of the most beautiful places in Petaluma for people who don’t live here?” said Susan Jaderstrom, a member of the group.

Video provided by Petalumans for Responsible Planning:

Tamara Galanter, a partner with San Francisco-based law firm Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger LLC, who spoke on behalf of advocacy group Kelly Creek Protection Project slammed the draft EIR. She called the document inadequate, citing issues with the lack of a clear description of the project and problems with ecological analysis.

Paul Sharp, a longtime D Street resident, also condemned the proposal.

“Once the environment is destroyed and once traffic has overtaken these areas, there’s really nothing else to be done,” he said.