Danville Express

Newsfront - December 21, 2007

Court to decide if Weber project could hurt environment

Judge focuses on town-protected trees

by Jordan M. Doronila

Will removing trees from a development in Danville hurt the environment?

A judge is deliberating whether removing town-protected trees from a development on the Weber estate would impact the surrounding aesthetics, wildlife and oak woodlands. He is reviewing a lawsuit filed by a group of 60 Danville residents - Citizens for Civic Responsibility - that claims the Town of Danville violated a provision in a state law by OK'ing a project in April.

The group said before the Danville Town Council gave the approval to develop the 15-acre Weber estate into 22 single-family homes, it first needed to do a comprehensive environmental study.

Representatives of the group, the town and the project developer met at a hearing in court last week. The judge has approximately 90 days to make a decision.

"We are just waiting to see what the judge will rule," said Town Attorney Rob Ewing. "The judge had some issues with the trees."

The council approved the Davidon Homes proposal for the property on Blemer Road and Matadera Way, which included donating 3.7 acres to the town and removing 126 trees to pave way for the development. The Planning Division would monitor their removal.

The town's tree ordinance states that no one can destroy or remove a protected tree on any property in Danville without obtaining a tree removal permit from the Planning Division. Davidon did receive a permit, and it would replace the 26 town-protected trees with younger ones, said Town Principal Planner David Crompton.

"We felt that was adequate mitigation with the removal of the trees," Ewing said.

He said the town's defense was that it had complied with state law.

Nonetheless, the judge still had concerns about the town's initial environmental studies.

"He was worried," said Brian Gaffney, attorney for Citizens for Civic Responsibility.

Gaffney noted that analyses done by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Department of Fish and Game, a wetlands restoration ecologist and the California Oaks Foundation said that developing the Weber property would impact its surroundings. An environmental report is needed before developing the estate, his clients said.

Lucille Weber, who still lives on the property, previously owned the 15-acre parcel. She deeded it to the Salvation Army, which in turn sold it to Davidon.

Now, the neighbors, town and Davidon await the judge's decision to see if an environmental impact report is needed.

Crompton said Davidon is going forward with getting approvals for development and improvement plans. Davidon executive Jeff Thayer did not return phone calls by press time.

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