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Deal reached in Petaluma luxury home development

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MORE INFO

Learn about the effort to expand Helen Putnam Park and donate at extendputnampark.org.

A controversial luxury home project in the hills of west Petaluma is set to move forward after the developer and an environmental group opposed to the project struck a deal that could scale back the size of the development and preserve sensitive habitat as parkland.

The Kelly Creek Protection Project reached the agreement with East Bay developer Davidon Homes this week. It would protect at least 75 percent of the environmentally-sensitive lands surrounding Scott Ranch in west Petaluma while allowing construction of up to 28 homes.

Since 2004, Davidon Homes has been attempting to develop housing on the 58-acre property next to Helen Putnam Regional Park, initially proposing 93 luxury homes. But environmental groups and numerous residents mobilized against the project, often spilling out of the council chambers at various city meetings.

KCPP director Greg Colvin, who has been on the frontlines of that fight, watched the developer’s proposal shrink with each environmental review that came before city council.

On Monday, Davidon Homes signed a purchase and sale agreement with KCPP, promising to sell 44 of the most vital acres on the property if the nonprofit can raise $4.1 million by Sept. 1. Under the deal, KCPP will not oppose Davidon’s bid to construct up to 28 homes on the north side of the property, away from the Kelly Creek watershed and red-legged frog habitat.

Davidon will sell the entire property to KCPP if the nonprofit can raise $11 million by Dec. 1.

“That kind of broad scale community uprising was extremely important in letting the city and letting Davidon know this was a serious dispute,” Colvin said. “I always felt at some point it’s important to know you’ve won the battle and it’s time to find a compromise because that’s how things really do get done in politics and in the best interests in the community. We had to secure the future … not just fight for it.”

Steve Abbs, vice president of land acquisition and development for Davidon Homes, said the deal is a step toward a resolution for a project the company has been pushing for more than 14 years, on property they’ve owned for far longer.

“We are excited to be partnering up with KCPP, providing a project that meets the city’s minimum allowable density for the property while providing a spectacular opportunity for a recreation space and open space for the community,” Abbs said.

Raising funds to purchase the entire parcel might be a challenge, but Colvin said he is confident the group can at least secure the coveted 44 acres thanks to a swelling movement to extend Helen Putnam Park to the corner of D and Windsor streets.

KCPP has already raised $3 million for the park extension thanks to its sponsorship from the Earth Island Institute, a Berkeley-based group founded by David Brower that backs environmental activism with fiscal support and organizational infrastructure.

On Wednesday, Colvin submitted an application to the matching grant program of the Sonoma County Ag and Open Space District for $1 million. Wednesday was the deadline for this year’s funding cycle, which will likely see a competitive application pool from fire-impacted communities that lost habitats and open spaces last October.

The Sonoma County Land Trust also has $1 million earmarked for conversion of Scott Ranch to public use, according to a press release. Colvin said he plans on pursuing those funds so they can create new access points to Helen Putnam Park on Windsor Drive and D Street.

MORE INFO

Learn about the effort to expand Helen Putnam Park and donate at extendputnampark.org.

If KCPP successfully purchases the space, the money from the land trust will be used to enhance the iconic red barns, construct addition trails and add more parking before potentially handing it over to Sonoma County Regional Parks for management.

As for the rest of the fundraising, Colvin is hopeful individual donors, foundations and local businesses within the community will step up to help finalize the sale.

“It’s up to the community and the level of support they’re interested (in having) and what they want the property to turn out to be,” he said.

(Contact News Editor Yousef Baig at yousef.baig@arguscourier.com or 776-8461, and on Twitter @YousefBaig.)