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The Brentwood Planning Commission voted unanimously last week to recommend the city council deny the Bridle Gate development project.

The 5-0 vote was cast during a three-hour Sept. 1 meeting, which saw about 40 public speakers voice their contention with the applicant’s latest request: a rezone and general plan amendment to accommodate an increase in housing units and a cutback on commercial development, parks and open space.

Discovery Builders Inc.’s Bridle Gate project — slated for land located west of the Sand Creek Road and State Route 4 interchange — has seen back and forth with the city since 2001. The application went through variations and was approved by the city council in 2006.

“Discovery Builders never moved forward with the construction of the project, so all of the entitlements expired except the general plan amendment and rezone, which took effect at that time and resulted in the land-use and zoning we have today,” said Debbie Hill, associate planner for the city.

The current proposal in comparison to the 2006 plan would provide an increase of 86 single family dwelling units, the addition of 258 multi-family units and the decrease of commercial acres by about 16, open space by 21 and parks by .75 acre. The newest version of the plan also slates about 11 acres for an elementary school site.

Brentwood Union School District (BUSD) Superintendent Dana Eaton said the district entered into an agreement with Discovery Builders Inc. on Aug. 19, which gives the district the option of purchasing the land for a future school should the project pan out. But should the district, for whatever reason, not pursue purchase of the land, those 11 acres would also turn into 63 additional houses, bringing the total single family unit count to 315, as outlined in a staff report presented by Hill. In that scenario, the applicant would pay the city $25,000 for each of the additional single-family homes for a total of $1.6 million, with those funds to be used for a youth center or youth programming, reported Brentwood Planning Manager Erik Nolthenius.

The main point of contention with the project for those who voiced their concerns during the public comment period was the fact that the plan had morphed since it’s most recent 2006 version to reflect a reduction of commercial acreage and an increase in the residential rooftop count — an unattractive option for those from the public who noted the city wasn’t in need of more residents who would impact schools and the already-thin emergency services, while driving Brentwood deeper into its “bedroom community” state with too few job opportunities.

“Projects that ask for a rezone and (that are) not in the general plan are not in the best interest of Brentwood and its residents,” said public speaker Benjamin Kellogg, who is running for a seat on the fire board in November. “We need commercial development, not more residential … our fire protection is bursting at the seams; we have three stations and nine people every single day. A developer who protests and refuses to pay fire impact fees can pack their bags and leave town. They are not wanted. It’s not a Seeno-hater issue. It could be any developer that refuses to pay impact fees.”

Kellogg’s statement was in response to Discovery Builders owner Albert Seeno, who spoke during the meeting and noted there were many components of the city’s new impact fees that didn’t make sense.

“The chief asked for $11 million; we said no; they said you have to have a fire apparatus to get up to your apartments if you’re going to build them three stories,” Seeno said. “I said, well, we’re in city hall, which is over four, and this doesn’t have a fire truck with a ladder on it. We’re going to pay the fire fees; that’s what everyone else is doing … we’re not entitled to anything; we come hat in hand, we want to be a good neighbor, we know there are a lot of people upset about (the project) — traffic — we get it … But we don’t want to be held accountable for all the sins of the city’s past.”

Brentwood recently updated its impact fees for the first time since 2004. Changes will include per-unit single-family residential fees jumping $364 to $1,317.97; per-square-foot commercial project fees jumping $0.70 to $0.89; per-square-foot office project fees jumping $1 to $1.19; and per-square-foot industrial project fees increasing $0.40 to $0.59.

“Historically, we did not place the appropriate amount of impact fees, and we did not have community facilities districts for the past 30 or 40 years, and it has created the existing deficit that we have today,” Brian Helmick, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District fire chief, said in a recent interview with The Press. “By placing these impact fees to build future stations and apparatus, and by accompanying them with the (community facilities districts), as the district is doing, we are going to stop the bleeding and effectively address growth as we move forward.”

Nolthenius further pointed out that commercial development brings cities additional revenue in the form of sales taxes.

“Brentwood loses a lot of potential sales tax dollars to other cities because a lot of people shop where they work,” he said. “The additional economic activity from having a larger daytime population would help other Brentwood businesses, creating a cycle of improved economic conditions and business opportunities in Brentwood.”

The next phase in the project that spans a total of 137.3 acres is the ultimate approval or denial by the city council during its Sept. 15 meeting. The council’s decision at that point will be final, pending any legal litigation. Nolthenius noted the applicant could, however, suggest changes to the council for consideration.

While the project has seen its share of controversy, it also presents certain perks, including the development of Sand Creek Road, which the community has hoped to see extended to Deer Valley Road — a direct path to the Kaiser hospital in Antioch from Brentwood. In order for this to happen, development would need to take place on both sides of Heirdon Ranch Road — the border between Antioch and Brentwood.

Antioch Community Director Forrest Ebbs provided a status update on the Antioch side that one day could see the development of that road. Vineyard at Sand Creek, which is closest to the Brentwood border, is a project entailing 641 housing units. The development is in phase 3 of the project, and once it reaches phases 4, 5 and 6, the developer’s portion of Sand Creek Road (running south of the project) will be built. Aviano is another project that will help pave Sand Creek, though it’s not as far along.

“This will get us very close to Deer Valley Road,” Ebbs explained. “There’s one property that’s between Deer Valley Road and Aviano, and we don’t have a solution for that yet. If developers came in, they would have to build their portion.”

However, a few other solutions are in the works for that region, Ebbs said. The Ranch, which was recently approved by the Antioch City Council, will boast 1,177 homes.

“If during the time (The Ranch developers) are building — if that segment hasn’t been completed — they will have to complete it,” he said.

Ebbs also reported developers are working to get the road classified as a “route of regional significance.” The classification could help reimburse developers for 40% to 50% of the cost to build their portion of the road.

The Brentwood City Council will vote on Bridle Gate during a special meeting on Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. To participate, visit http://bit.ly/thepressnet_BrentwoodMeeting.

To view the complete Bridle Gate project plans, visit http://bit.ly/thepressnet_BridleGate. To view the complete Bridle Gate environmental impact report, visit http://bit.ly/thepressnet_EIR.

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