Housing developments get green light

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Callahan Estates and Stone’s Throw (formerly known as Winters Highlands) both took another step toward becoming finished products at the Tuesday, Nov. 14 planning commission meeting. The commission unanimously approved both a planned development overlay for Stone’s Throw and a site plan for its 11 models.

The Stone’s Throw developers requested a reduction in setbacks around the houses from the 20 feet regularly mandated by the R-2 zoning code. The setback changes occurred on different sides of the plans depending on the model and lot and were reduced from 20 feet to 12-17 feet.

Dealing with the variances to the zoning code during the building process rather than at the request of the home buyer is expected to expedite the process and make it easier for home owners to customize their homes as they wish.

“When the city does a PD, they don’t think about the future… which is a huge expense for the homeowner,” said contract planner David Doswell.

The planned development (PD) overlay also included a reduction in parking for alley-loaded lots, which the developer proposed would come with space for three vehicles, while the homebuyer could pay for an optional fourth space on a slab to the side of the house.

“So far, it’s been working well; nobody’s parking illegally in the alleyway,” said Doswell.

Commissioner Greg Contreras was concerned that the desire for smaller homes was not represented in the planned development overlay.

“They look beautiful, but they’re all pretty big homes,” said Contreras. “I don’t know if I would agree that smaller homes aren’t marketable.”

“There will be varying product types in our overall plans,” said developer Jermey Goulart.

According to Goulart, smaller square-footage homes are to be located elsewhere in the development in a separate phase.

Steven Kubitschek, who designed the plans for Crowne Communities, said that a main goal for the project was to create architectural variety.

“We wanted to create a community where homes are harmonious,” he said. “We started fresh and new, using unique design elements not usually seen in production homes in northern California.”

He also said that the project was still committed to the idea of visitability, and most plans include ADA compliant features.

“We’re about 90 percent there,” said Kubitschek.

“I like the fact that you’ve done a lot of single-story,” said commissioner Patrick Riley.

According to City Manager John Donlevy, a major concern with a real estate project of that size is the appearance of track housing in a community that values unique charm in the residential areas.

“Clearly they’ve gone beyond that,” said Donlevy

The planned development overlay for the Callahan Estates project was deferred to the next planning commission meeting because the applicant, Crowne Communities, wished to change the PD overlay, without sufficient notice to Doswell.


Creek setbacks

The planning commission visited the issue of setbacks along Dry Creek and Putah Creek for the third time, but still struggle to find a fair solution.

Some homeowners with creekside lots want to add to their homes or build accessory structures such as sheds, but are unable to do so because of a city-mandated 50-foot setback.

Some houses that were built before the code update are out of compliance and cannot take modifications without going through extra hoops in obtaining permits.

“The struggle here is that you don’t have an in-house city engineer, “ said Doswell, “you don’t have anyone that can take on this responsibility.”

“I think the waiver can be done at a lower level. We still open ourselves up to the same liability,” said Contreras.

According to Doswell, a use permit for building within the 50-foot setback would run the homeowner $1000.

“The points that have been brought up have been very well-taken,” said Donlevy, “A tuff shed costs $2000 so we’ve added a 50 percent premium.”


Next meeting

The planning commission will not meet at its normally scheduled time next week. It will meet next on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.


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