City, developers share Farmstead update

The Farmstead lot along Grant Avenue. (Express File photo)

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On Friday, Oct. 10, Farmstead representatives and staff, including City Planning Commission Vice Chair Lisa Baker, Councilmembers Mayor Wade Cowan and Mayor Pro Tempore Bill Biasi, and members of the Winters Fire and Police Departments, met with property owner Mark Skreden and Wood Rodgers engineer Tim Denham to continue their work on the site plan for the 62-acre Farmstead project being developed north of Grant Avenue and east of Lorenzo’s Market.

City Planner Kirk Skierski opened the meeting with an overview of its purpose, stating, “today’s main point is to go over the design, configuration, and layout (of the project), and provide feedback from each perspective and specific city department along with some of our appointed and elected officials.”

Skreden summarized the work done up until this meeting. “We’ve been actively working on the entitlement of this project for about six years now,” and that during that time the developers have created, “a couple of different conceptual plans that have come before the city,” and their team has been working to come up with a plan that addresses all previously brought up concerns.

Denham discussed the first subdivision map submitted in 2019, the effect of COVID-19 on their work, previous Development Resource Commission meetings, as well as the significant changes made to their plans thus far, including addition of affordable housing units and the restructuring of the site map to change which residences were adjacent to the park. 

Different representatives of the respective city organizations presented some issues to address as well as feedback on the map. 

Public safety officials Police Chief John P. Miller, Interim Fire Chief Matt Schechla and Fire Captain Art Mendoza raised concerns over the layout of certain lots necessitating street parking which may make traversing the road of the plot difficult during emergencies, as well as concerns over difficulty accessing certain areas of the lot. The commission decided to alleviate this latter issue by making the bike paths large enough for emergency and maintenance access to all areas of the lot.

Cowan’s most important points were that too many of the housing units were small, and he would prefer if the developers made them larger for people to have more property. He also suggested the developers should, “reduce the park to a minimum size,” of a drainage basin as possible, “to make a little more room for the residential slots.”

“What’s the absolute minimum we can do to meet the retention needs, and that’s the bulk of the park…and maybe rework that northeast corner for some larger lots, and expand the townhomes so that the overall lot count doesn’t go down,” Cowan said.

Denham noted the minimum park size would be four acres,  as well as some existing difficulties regarding costs of infrastructure needed for the project. “The side yard setback is an issue…it doesn’t leave you much for the house,” Denham said, meaning less houses for the developer to sell and making it more difficult for them to recoup their costs.

To compromise, the commission and developers tentatively agreed to an increase in the diversity of the lot by creating a few houses from 8,000–12,000 feet, having a few of the existing size, and expanding the number of townhouses so all three income sizes can be accommodated, while decreasing the size of the park to the minimum retention-compliant size possible.

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