Article Last Updated: Saturday, Aug 27, 2005 - 11:10:24 pm PDT
Fairfield's Next Big Housing Project on the Way
By Barry Eberling
FAIRFIELD - Lewis Planned Communities is trying to build 2,327 homes and apartments on 434 acres while avoiding a rare flower and meeting city demands for a pedestrian friendly community.
The company's vision for the Villages at Fairfield will soon get a big test, most likely on Sept. 20. That's the tentative date for the City Council to pass judgment on proposals for the land near Clay Bank and Cement Hill roads.
Council members have made it clear this project is important. It's one of the biggest developments remaining within Fairfield's voter-approved growth boundaries, one that could take 10 to 15 years to build.
The project comes with the endorsement of the city Planning Commission. The commission on Aug. 17 reviewed the Villages at Fairfield plans and environmental studies.
"We hope and expect it to be a great project," Commissioner Gurpreet Dhugga said.
"Thanks for investing in Fairfield," Commissioner Charles Wood told Lewis officials.
Commissioners had concerns along the way. For example, they worried how all the added homes would effect traffic on such major city roads as Air Base Parkway, Peabody Road, Clay Bank Road and Manuel Campos Parkway.
Lewis in a development agreement with the city would be obligated to improve these roads. It would have to make certain improvements when it builds a certain number of homes.
Commissioner Thomas Mattis at earlier meetings had many questions about traffic. But the proposed agreement between Lewis Homes and the city satisfied him.
"Pretty much all of the traffic has been taken care of," Mattis said.
The proposed development agreement contains other features. Among them:
- A Mello-Roos district would impose a $542 annual tax on Villages homeowners. This would at build-out raise $1.16 million annually for citywide police services and park maintenance within the Villages.
- The Homecomings apartments proposed near Clay Bank Road would provide 130 residences at affordable rents for Travis Air Force Base personnel. That would be done for at least 55 years.
- Lewis would build a 2,400-square-foot neighborhood center next to a planned elementary school.
- Lewis would build parks and trails before certain deadlines. That includes a section of the Linear Park along an abandoned railroad right-of-way between Clay Bank and Peabody roads.
- Lewis would pay $500 per house for community improvements, such as a teen center. This fee could bring the city $1 million.
Several commissioners said the development agreement helped convince them to endorse the project.
"That sealed the deal," Mattis said.
One challenge for Lewis is building in an area with vernal pool wetlands and the rare Contra Costa goldfield flower. The developer will preserve several wetland areas, including 9 acres for the flower.
"Do we have the right or capability to throw seed out and grow more Contra Costa goldfields?" Mattis asked. "At some point, it's going to go through tough times. There's going to be dry years."
The more flowers, the greater chance they will survive, he said.
Fairfield would not be involved in such an effort, city planner Erin Beavers said. But other agencies and groups could look at how to manage land for the goldfields, he said.
William Mellerup of Lewis Planned Communities sketched out a vision for the Villages.
"Our land plan emphasizes open space, parks, pedestrian pathways and the Linear Park system," he said.
Each neighborhood will have its own sense of place, he said. The Villages will do such things as preserve the concrete kilns from Cement, a historic, long-vanished town and cement operation that once stood in the area.
He convinced the Planning Commission. Now he must convince the City Council.
Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at email@example.com.
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