Planning Commission passes Elworthy plans | May 23, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - May 23, 2008

Planning Commission passes Elworthy plans

Vote 6-1 to OK development on 12 of 459 acres of ranchland

by Meghan Neal

The Planning Commission approved a residential development on the 459-acre Elworthy Ranch at its meeting last week. The members voted 6-1 to approve the project despite resident concerns about traffic, overcrowding in schools and aesthetics.

If the project moves forward, 84 single-family homes and a 12-unit apartment building will be built on 12 acres of the hilly property, located on the slope of Las Trampas Ridge in southwest Danville.

Commissioners say the plan is superior to past attempts to develop the property because it protects more open space by opting for high-density development in a small section of the site.

"I think the overall sentiment of the commission was that it's a good project and that the trade off between the units and the density and the open space being provided - it's a good trade," said Danville principal planner David Crompton.

The clustered homes would be located on the flat section of the property close to San Ramon Valley Boulevard. About 232 acres of the site would be dedicated to the East Bay Regional Park District for preservation, and 182 acres would have a protective easement barring future development.

About 10 years ago the Elworthy family nearly sold the land to developer Suncrest Homes, which planned to build about 200 luxury houses, some going all the way up the ridge. The proposal fell through because of soil runoff and landslide issues.

The one nay vote came from Commissioner Steven Condie. He was concerned the study on the environmental impact of the project didn't fully address greenhouse gas effects.

The results of the study, reviewed by the town earlier this year, showed the development would have very little impact on the environment, and none that couldn't be mitigated.

At the meeting residents expressed concerns that a new development would worsen overcrowding in local schools and increase traffic. They were also worried about losing the view of the open field.

Residents were initially worried the development would exacerbate existing drainage problems in the area. A detention basin - essentially a holding pond - was added to the plan to help improve the drainage system.

The development plan includes a 12-car parking lot connected to a pedestrian trail that travels up the ridge. The land would also be accessible by foot from the back side, near Bollinger Canyon Road.

Five acres will be set aside for the Elworthy family, including one existing home and a private equestrian facility.

The Elworthys raised cattle on the 150-year-old ranch for generations before recently deciding to sell a piece of it for development.

There will be another opportunity for public comment before the Town Council votes on the project, likely at the June 17 council meeting.