Council to hear appeal of Vine Hill Way development

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Two Martinez residents who historically are on opposite sides of whether the former Pine Meadow Golf Course should be developed with housing have sent a Planning Commission decision on the matter to the City Council. The public hearing is tonight at City Hall.

In a brief message to several officials, including City Manager Brad Kilger, City Clerk Richard G. Hernandez and Christina Ratcliffe, director of Community and Economic Development, Shroder asked May 16 for a review of the Planning Commission’s approval May 15 of the project’s Mitigated Negative Declaration and Vesting Tentative Map.

In his May 13 message, Schroder asked why the owners of Pine Meadow shouldn’t be allowed to develop the privately-owned property.

A longtime opponent of putting homes on the former golf course also has requested the Council review the Planning Commission’s actions.

In his May 22 letter, Tim Platt also requested a review of the Planning Commission’s decision.

He based his request on issues he raised with Ratcliffe May 4. In that letter, he called the former golf course “the last park site in Martinez.” He wrote that the golf course is adjacent to other open space that extends down Vine Hill Road to the Freitas Open Space and connects to the California Hiking and Riding Trail and is near the Costanza Open Space.

He wrote that the golf course also connects to Mount Wanda and beyond. “Pine Meadow is at a particularly important nexus of open space and trails in Martinez, both for humans and wildlife.”

He pointed out that Martinez has a parks goal of five acres for each 1,000 residents, but currently is at 4.5 acres per thousand.

“the General Plan Update says an additional 29.5 acres of parks will be needed to accommodate predicted population growth, so the importance of Pine Meadow as the last site in Martinez for a major park cannot be underestimated,” he wrote.

In addition, he wrote that Martinez hasn’t opened a new city-owned park or open space in 20 years, that 40 percent of Martinez parkland is not owned by the city. He wrote that residences keep being built and that residents will need more park area.

He wrote that the entire application, including the Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration, are based on a “fallacy,” the Council’s finding Jan. 18, 2017, that the golf course has always been zoned for residential development. Platt and his supporters have asked the courts to rule on that decision.

Platt also appealed based on aesthetics, the protection of trees, the property’s topography and the potential of ground contamination from chemicals used on the golf course.

Another resident, the city’s former planner, Corey Simon, has recommended modifying the conditions of approval so that slopes on Lots 26 through 36 would become landscape easements maintained by the development’s home owners’ association.

Contract Planner Cindy Gnos and Ratcliffe wrote a joint staff report, recommending that the appeals be denied and the development’s documents be adopted.

In that report, they said De Nova Homes submitted an application Oct. 2, 2013, for a General Plan amendment, a Rezone/Planned Unit Development and a Vesting Tentative map for 99 homes on the 26.77-acre golf course, at 451 Vine Hill Way.

That project was approved Jan. 21, 2015, but a referendum petition was submitted to the city regarding the General Plan amendment and the rezone-planned unit development approval. The Council rescinded the approval Feb. 29, 2016, of the Mitigated Negative Declaration and Vesting Tentative Map for the original project. The Council also repealed its approval of the General Plan Amendment, Rezone-planned unit development for the original project.

DeNova then submitted a new application April 7, 2016, for a Vesting Tentative Map that would subdivide the acres into 98 lots for 92 homes. But city staff determined the application was incomplete.

An appeal of that determination led to the Council’s adoption Jan. 18, 2017, of Resolution No. 011-17, that granted the appeal and found that the golf course was designated residential in the General Plan with a zoning of R-1-7500, which is the equivalent of the modern zoning designation of R-7.5, they wrote.

A legal challenge has been filed on the City Council’s determination that a General Plan Amendment and rezoning was not required, and that challenge is still pending, they wrote.

The report said the Planning Commission’s May 15 public hearing on the new application for a vesting tentative subdivision map, mitigated negative declaration and mitigation monitoring and reporting program resulted in a 6-0 approval of adopting the documents.

The report also responds to Platt’s objections. He said the golf course is “a haven for a variety of wildlife,” but the report said the declaration and study indicate the development would have no significant impact on biological resources.

He has raised concern about the historic value of the site, including the land’s historic past. The report said the land is a former golf course with a restaurant and storage for boats and recreational vehilcles, and is not under agricultural production, nor were any other historic resources found on the site.

Platt also contends that the study basis is invalid and is the city’s attempt to rewrite history.

“In the event that a court overturns the City Council action, additional entitlements will be required. At that time, staff and the environmental consultant would evaluate whether any changes would be required,” the pair wrote in the report.

Platt wrote that the subdivision isn’t compatible with other areas of the neighborhood and that Lots 7 to 21 would loom over neighboring properties, and he objects to proposed tall retaining walls.

The staff response said the project would have the appearance of a residential development on moderate slopes. Standard setbacks would be incorporated, and fences would be no higher than those allowed by city codes.

Platt also aired his concern that protected trees would be removed and would not be replaced with anything other than “small, young trees.” The staff report said three trees would be planted for each tree removed, consistent with the city code.

To Platt’s suggestion that the site should drain toward Elderwood Drive and that the drainage design instead splits and does not conform to flood control requirements, the two wrote that the project was revised to comply with the Contra Costa County Flood Control District’s preferences.

His concerns about grading and topsoil movement also were answered with referrals to the development’s documents that indicated mitigation would make those impacts less than significant.

Concerning chemicals used on the site, including lead paint and asbestos that also worried Platt, the staff report said a soil investigation indicated there was no evidence of significant release of pesticides, herbicides or metals, although diesel and oil were released in the petroleum storage shed. Mitigation measures described in the development documents would address any exposure, they wrote.

Platt said neighbors “have grave concerns” about additional traffic created by the development, as well as the potential for future accidents caused by new intersections near existing intersections.

The staff report indicated the intersections would be built to city standards, and possible visual obstructions have been redesigned.

Platt wrote that schools couldn’t handle increased students, but impact fees paid by the development would cover increased costs, the staff report replied.

Platt also said the cumulative impacts of the development and loss of park acreage should result in a finding of a potentially significant impact. But the staff report noted the site was a golf course, not a park that would be lost, and disagreed that the project would be found to have a significant impact.

The Council meeting will start at 7 p.m. today in the Council Chamber of Martinez City Hall, 525 Henrietta St.

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