The 410 acres of Magee Ranch off Diablo Road being planned for development by Summerhill Homes is now grazing land. Photo by Dolores Fox Ciardelli.
Save Our Creek, a citizens group opposed to development at Magee Ranch in Danville, recently accused the town of Danville of illegally limiting voter approval of the controversial SummerHill Homes project.
Seventy-eight homes have been planned for the as-yet undeveloped 410-acre property southeast of Diablo Road and Green Valley/McCauley Road. One or two-story homes would be located on approximately 119 acres on the flatter portion of the site to avoid ridgelines and will range in size from 3,112 to 4,116 square feet, with an optional in-law unit. The remaining approximately 291 acres would remain as undeveloped open space.
The project would entail the construction of a new driveway from Diablo Road/Blackhawk Road adjacent to Jillian Way, which would serve as the primary entrance to the subdivision; access to the proposed custom homesites would be provided by separate project driveways located near Diablo Road /Clydesdale Drive and south of the intersection of Diablo Road/McCaully Road. The development would also include an eight-foot decomposed granite trail adjacent to Green Valley Creek.
Because the development is located on land designated for agricultural uses in the 2010 general plan, Save Our Creek said the project triggers provisions of the 2000 Danville Open Space Preservation Initiative, or Measure S, a measure that was approved by voters to limit development on agricultural land. As a result, Save Our Creek asserts that the town needs voter approval, by ballot measure, in order to move the development forward.
"It is unfathomable that Danville's government believes that it can ignore the legal right of Danville residents and decide for itself whether this project can move forward as proposed," said Maryann Cella, a Save Our Creek spokesperson. "I encourage everyone in Danville to join our cause…so as to ensure that this blatant disregard for the general plan and the Danville Open Space Preservation Initiative never happens again."
But town officials maintain that they have done nothing illegal. Land zoned for agricultural use may still have one home per 5 acres and the clustered nature of the homes in the development would adhere to that law, said Principal Planner David Crompton. Measure S is only enacted when a developer asks for a general plan amendment, not a rezoning request such as SummerHill Homes'.
"It's our opinion that they're not asking for a general plan amendment, they're asking for a rezoning and Measure S does not apply for rezoning," said City Attorney Rob Ewing, adding that the project has not yet been approved. "The general plan sets broad policy and definitions, and zoning follows below that. In this case...they didn't change the general plan designation, rather they applied for rezoning to cluster the development they'd be otherwise entitled to on the property."
In a Feb. 6, 2012 letter to the town, Save Our Creek also called for "a comprehensive planning study which identifies all constraints associated with development of the site as well as opportunities for continued agricultural, resource management, and open space use." Due to a delay in the completion of several studies and reports to be incorporated into the draft environmental impact report for the project, the draft EIR is now expected to available for public review in July 2012.
"This violation of Danville's general plan demonstrates yet another reason why this project is inappropriate for Danville and its residents. This development, in its current form, is completely inconsistent with the Town's promise, its vision and its general plan," said Danville resident and Save Our Creek member Todd Gary.
After the draft EIR is released, the town will hold a series of public hearings where residents can voice their opinions and concerns on the project. According to the town website, a public hearing on the final EIR and the project are projected to occur in early 2013.
"We're not planning for development, but we know that the land, as it is, has some development rights and potential," Crompton said. "We want to provide guidance for how that development should occur when the application comes in. "