Residents in the area have publicly protested the Cedarwood project since it was first presented to the council last July. In an organized plea to the council at a meeting in September, Knox Lane residents asked council members to rezone the project to a lower density, citing concerns that the project would impact the rural atmosphere of the existing neighborhood, which consists of only a handful of 1-acre ranchette-style houses.
Residents attempted to formally petition the project, but unlike the Stop Rosewood campaign, the residents were unable to collect enough valid signatures in time to put the project on hold.
With the petition officially quashed, the council voted 4-0 (Councilman Bruce Connelly abstaining) at its Jan. 12 meeting to approve a revised tentative map for the 34-unit housing project on 14.95 acres along Knox Lane. In response to neighbors’ concerns, Discovery Builders revised its first proposal so that the minimum lot size is now 15,000 square feet as opposed to the initial proposal of a 12,000-square-foot minimum. To accommodate the increased lot sizes, the project’s main street was made a cul de sac.
Despite the changes, residents still opposed the overall density of the project.
Denise Morford, a member of the Committee To Stop Rosewood, asked the council to rethink the project and consider rezoning the 14.95 acres to allow for a lower density of houses, more comparable to the existing neighborhood. “Your job (as the City Council) is to create new residential developments and preserve the existing neighborhoods. … It’s unfair to the current residents to have such a development that does not work cohesively into the existing homes in the area. Please reconsider this plan and listen to the community.”
Knox Lane resident Julie Fierros, who has spoken at all the public hearings regarding the Cedarwood development, said the Jan.12 meeting felt like déjà vu. While the lot sizes were tweaked, the density remained the same and she urged the council to reconsider the number of houses proposed for the development.
However, not all Oakley residents who spoke during the public hearing opposed the project. Six residents spoke in favor of the Cedarwood Estates project – a first since the project first came before the council last summer.
Scott Youngman, a 20-year Oakley resident who has owned two houses in Oakley, said he supported the project and would consider moving into one of the Cedarwood houses as an upgrade.
“… I love Oakley and I want to stay in Oakley,” Youngman said. “Some of my friends might question my judgment, but this is our home and without future projects like this, it limits our potential as future homebuyers to upgrade within this community, so I encourage the council to continue the good work and listen to the concerns of the neighbors, and I’d just like to say to the neighbors of Knox Lane that maybe I could be a good neighbor to them in the near future if this project goes forward.”
Discovery Builders representative Sal Evola said he believes the new map is an appropriate compromise between the initial proposal and what the existing Knox Lane residents want. Since residents continue to express concerns about the appearance of the Cedarwood houses, Evola pledged to work with residents to come up with a design to satisfy everyone.
“I’ll commit today on the record, prior to submitting a plan for design review, we will hold another community meeting to show them (Knox Lane residents) our housing plans,” Evola said. “… I have committed to the residents of Knox Lane, who will be looking out at these homes, that I would work with them on appropriately placing the design of the homes in which they would like to look out at in addition to the color palette they would like to look out on.”
Evola said that if residents don’t like the colors Discovery Builders select, they are welcome to take pictures of homes in existing neighborhoods in far East County and Discovery Builders will find a way to match that color in their designs.
Councilwoman Carol Rios said she was impressed with Discovery Builders’ gesture to work with the neighbors to create a design satisfactory to the existing residents. “That’s unheard of, to say that whatever you have to see, we’ll make it pleasing to your eye. I think that’s to be commended.”
Vice Mayor Jim Frazier agreed. “I do like the willingness of the applicant to work with the residents on the palette and the style of the homes. It’s unheard of, and I do commend the developers for reaching out as much as they have – for meeting with the residents and working throughout the process. I appreciate that.”
In adopting the resolution to approve the tentative map, the council also permitted Discovery Builders to remove 10 heritage trees, under the condition that Discovery Builders adds a third tree to the landscaping of each of the 34 proposed homes.
Discovery Builders was also penalized $12,200 for the unpermitted removal of six heritage trees in 2007. The fees will go toward landscaping public parks throughout the city.
Discovery Builders has been given 60 days to pay the fine.