SVCAC OKs Hanna subdivision
After two meetings and a three-month delay, the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission gave its divided approval Wednesday night to a contentious development plan proposed by Hanna Boys Center on Carriger Road.
The 5-to-3 decision is purely advisory, but it carries significant political weight as a reflection of Valley opinion while the proposed housing project moves through the county planning process.
A group of neighbors, organized as Preserve Carriger, had objected to the development plan since it was first proposed by Hanna as a six-unit subdivision of luxury homes, positioned on property the center has owned for decades, and on an adjoining 30-acre parcel purchased two years ago.
Neighbors, while praising the work Hanna does with troubled boys, have locked horns with the center’s officials, contending that the houses would create traffic problems on narrow Carriger Road, would deplete precious groundwater resources, would destroy a pristine swath of unspoiled open space and, most grievously in some critics eyes, would set a dangerous precedent by requiring a General Plan amendment that could encourage other property owners to seek similar zoning favors from the county.
At a neighborhood meeting hosted by Hanna on the property last January, Carriger neighbors packed the room and the informational evening was punctuated with vocal outbursts from angry residents.
Hanna then appeared before the SVCAC in July with a revised and significantly downsized proposal for just three new homes that center officials said they thought had the approval of a significant number of neighbors. But the meeting was once again interrupted by frequent angry outbursts, and commission members ultimately decided to give Hanna time to do more outreach and address some unresolved issues.
Hanna officials have said that the development project was conceived in an effort to monetize unused property in order to underwrite the cost of adding an additional 12 boys – the population of one group home – to the center’s population.
The average annual cost per boy is about $100,000, computed as a per capita cost of annual operating revenues.
A review conducted by the Rev. John Crews, Hanna executive director, indicated Hanna’s costs are below average costs for several similar facilities and, Crews added, Hanna provides considerable tuition support for boys going on to college.
But Hanna’s good works haven’t mollified a sizeable contingent of Valley residents, some who live far from Carriger Road but object to any General Plan amendments. Said Margaret Spaulding of Glen Ellen, a General Plan amendment “impacts the whole county … Owning property is a privilege, not a right. When you own property you have to agree to abide by the General Plan.”
Anne Thornton, a Carriger Road resident, insisted, “The Hanna project should not go forward. Hanna has not addressed many environmental issues. I believe when all the evidence is in it will require an EIR.”
And Joan Geary, an active member of Preserve Carriger, argued, “The overriding issue is the proposed change to the General Plan … It is our responsibility to insure that the General Plan is upheld so this beautiful valley is not destroyed piece-by-piece.”
But Judd Redden, a Carriger resident whose family has lived there more than 100 years, countered that he supports the project. “It protects the property from more development,” he said.
Hanna boardmember Tom Angstadt told the commission the project “will not only be a benefit to Hanna, but to the residents of Carriger Road.”
The proposed project involves a General Plan amendment and lot line adjustments that results in one 47-acre parcel divided between one existing home and three new ones. The original 30-acre parcel encompassed by the project is now zoned rural residential for 3-acre parcels, hypothetically allowing for 10 homes, although that would depend on perc tests.
In the end, three members of the commission agreed there was not sufficient public benefit to justify a General Plan amendment, but the remaining five commissioners disagreed and two of them suggested that NIMBYism (not in my back yard) influenced the opposition.
Carriger Road opponents indicated afterwards their opposition will continue as the project moves through the county’s planning review process. Said Carriger Road resident Joan Geary, “This is just one step in the process. We will explore our options.”