Council members discussed the issue at their April 21 meeting. The proposal, from Davidon Homes, would create 22 single family homes on the parcel located between Blemer Road and Matadera Way. Part of the plan would also create a 3.7-acre "life estate parcel," which would belong to property owner Lucille Weber. After her death, the land would revert to the Town of Danville.
The life estate is in accordance with a compromise agreement made when the Salvation Army sold the parcel to Davidon.
The development plan has been going on for five years, having been challenged in court for environmental reasons. In the first challenge, the project was derailed after it was claimed that the land was a red-legged frog habitat. However, a study was done and no frogs were found.
Another suit was filed by Citizens for Civic Responsibility. At issue is the removal of 97 trees, 26 of them protected species. Two of the trees are heritage oaks. The suit was initially dismissed, but it is currently under appeal. Oral arguments have not been scheduled for the appeal.
At the Tuesday meeting, council members were updated by staff on the development and the current status of the lawsuit filed by the environmental group. Staff recommended approval.
Davidon executive Jeff Thayer laid out the plan for the council, pointing to the efforts of the developer to make the project conform with the general plan as closely as possible. He added that they are trying to work with the neighborhood, keeping the density low even though the town's plan would let them build twice as many units in that space.
"We're doing what we can to work with the town," Thayer said. "We want this to be something that will be a part of Danville."
Area residents were not as excited by the plan. During the public hearing, Paul DeChant explained what the loss of trees and the development of the property would mean for them.
"Last night while we were eating dinner outside we saw a red-tailed hawk circling the tree. We saw coyotes loping around. It just epitomized Danville for me," he stated.
DeChant added, "I'm not a NIMBY person. My concern is if grading starts before all the legal issues are resolved, the tree and the hill are already gone. I'd like to ask your consideration not to grade away our natural assets before these legal issues are done."
Citizens for Civic Responsibility spokeswoman Kristin Trisko also asked that the trees be spared. She also requested that the construction be limited to between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. in order to give Lucille Weber some quiet in the evening hours.
Trisko pointed to the town's tree mitigation ordinance, which will require the builder to replace trees based on the tree's diameter.
"You're cutting down a 50-inch tree, you're cutting down No. 8, which is a 30-inch tree. In my lifetime, in my children's lifetime, none of those trees (planted as part of the mitigation) will be 50 inches," she said.
After the public hearing, council members questioned the mitigation process and where the newly planted trees would be placed. Thayer said that because of the thickness of the trees being removed, they would have to put in a high number of trees. That number was more than could reasonably be placed on the parcel so he is working on a plan with Save Mount Diablo to put trees on a new parcel the group purchased in Irish Canyon.
Mayor Newell Arnerich applauded the initiative but suggested that replacement trees should be in Danville. He said he would like to see the trees planted at one of the school sites near the property.
Council members asked Town Attorney Rob Ewing if the work should be held up until the lawsuit is resolved, but Ewing said he did not think that was necessary.
Ewing said that some grading could occur while the appeal is being heard but the town does not have the legal ability to stop that. "If the court of appeal would overturn, obviously the project would stop."
Arnerich said both the applicant and the town have done their homework and the council should let the project continue, with the construction hours stipulated by Kristin Trisko.
"I don't know of any other project that has gone through this much. But that's the price of developing in Danville," he said.
With little further discussion, council members gave their unanimous approval to the proposed development.