The latest chapter in the effort by Davidon Homes to develop the 15-acre Weber property has the proposed development getting a green light from the Town Planning Commission.
At their March 31 meeting, commissioners examined the proposal from Davidon Homes, which calls for the construction of 22 single family homes and the removal of 97 trees, 26 of them protected species.
Commissioners were being asked to approve a negative declaration of environmental significance, as well as the preliminary and final development plans, a rezoning request and the tree removal request.
Over the past five years, the plan has been before both the Planning Commission and the Town Council but issues raised by opponents caused the project to be sidelined while lawsuits were resolved and environmental studies done.
At the Tuesday meeting, Davidon executive Jeff Thayer said the company had followed the town's general plan to the letter and the proposed project answers most if not all of the objections raised by neighbors of the parcel on Blemer Road and Matadera Way.
Thayer pointed to the density allowed in the general plan compared with the density of the subdivision they are proposing.
"Under this plan we would be allowed 45 units, but we are staying with 22," he said.
During the public hearing, a number of people who've stood against the project since its inception were again there to make their voices heard. Resident Pat Isom called into question the ownership of the property.
"In the compromise agreement, Lucille's (parcel owner Lucille Weber) portion of the property was not to be sold until she died. The Salvation Army sold the property in direct contravention of the judge. That puts a cloud on the property," she explained.
The Weber estate donated the parcel to the Salvation Army years ago in exchange for an annuity to Lucille Weber. When the Salvation Army moved to sell the parcel to Davidon, a compromise agreement was reached that would give Lucille Weber a 3.7-acre section of the property as a "life estate." When Weber passes away, the land will fall to the Town of Danville.
The planned removal of the trees on the property also brought out a number of opponents. Kristin Trisko addressed the commission on behalf of Citizens for Civic Accountability, a group that has sued over the tree removal.
Trisko said the new tree study done has resulted in better decision making; however, she feels the removal of two heritage oaks is a mistake.
"This plan cuts down two heritage oaks, the symbol of Danville, which you are all sitting below," she told the commission.
Trisko said she feels an Environmental Impact Report should be done on the development. The Citizens for Civic Responsibility have sued asking for that report to be done. Currently it is awaiting oral argument in the court of appeals.
Nearby resident Paul De Chant said he is concerned about how the development will affect his property.
"I'm right at level with it. For us, the issues we brought last time were property value, privacy and view. Davidon and the town have worked with us but I feel that it has fallen down," he said.
Property owner Robert Kemp spoke in favor of the development, saying that he feels it's the right use for the parcel. Kemp owns two pieces of land adjacent to the proposed Davidon development.
"We've got three schools within walking distance, plenty of open space in Oak Hill Park. This property should be for people, for families. It's kind of hard for me to hear that they don't want someone to have a new house when they're in a house," he stated.
All of those who spoke against the plan noted the irony of the commission considering the removal of 97 trees for a development when they had just spent an hour denying a petition from homeowners to remove just one tree from their property.
After the public hearing was closed, commissioners discussed the plan and the points raised in opposition.
"This is a neighborhood that has been discussed for some time," said Commissioner Robert Storer. "Many of us become accustomed to a property next to us that is open space. We can forget that that property is owned by someone. We have to, as a commission, look at the neighborhood's concerns."
Storer said he feels the commission has listened to the neighbors' concerns and worked with the applicant to mitigate as much as they can.
"Curiously, I wonder what Ms. Weber felt when the houses on San Gregorio Court were going up," he added.
Chairman Bob Nichols agreed they have been working hard with the applicant to see that the project answers neighborhood objections and also that it conforms to the town's general plan.
"The project meets the intent of the general plan. That's what we're governed by. Not only will this property be complementary to the neighborhood, it will be a nice addition to the neighborhood," he said.
Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the Davidon request.