Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Vallejo's Hiddenbrooke housing project moves forward with last batch of homes

Hiddenbrooke housing project moves forward

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

The last batch of homes planned for Vallejo's Hiddenbrooke community may be a tougher sell compared to earlier housing projects.

In a lengthy public hearing Tuesday, the Vallejo City Council voted 6-0 to deny appeals regarding the 70-house proposal, Hiddenbrooke's third and final phase of development.

The vote followed a discussion about the need for a daycare center, the desire for a fire station and the lack of a road to a potential restaurant site.

Some neighbors said the back yards of the homes were designed too small and the side yards too narrow.

And if those issues weren't enough, some raised concerns over red-legged frogs.

"It's just not fair to the people buying these lots," Bob Schussel, who lives in Hiddenbrooke, said of the back yard sizes.

Schussel was among two parties that filed an appeal to the council, asking it to overturn several project approvals given by the Vallejo Planning Commission in December.

The parties reached a deal with housing developer Triad Communities, city staff said.

Schussel said that a proposed road leading up to a potential restaurant site would have created traffic for residents. The road was dropped from the development plans.

Without the road, the owner said he may be unable to develop his lot.

Schussel also said a daycare center was supposed to be built in a Hiddenbrooke commercial center, but it was designed so small that a daycare center doesn't fit on the property.

The Hiddenbrooke resident also said the developer should give potential home buyers a separate sheet showing property taxes they'd pay. City staff said buyers will get the list.

And Schussel raised questions about why the city is letting the homes be built closer than previous projects to what officials called a critical habitat for a rare type of frog. City staff said federal wildlife officials determined and OK'd the distance.

Another party appealed the planning commission's December approvals. An attorney for David and Mary Laird raised concerns with the development saying it would affect the couple's 14 acres.

In light of all those issues, one resident compared Hiddenbrooke's lack of certain resources to that of a controversial housing development at Bordoni Ranch. Opponents said the project would strain city resources including fire protection services.

Residents should be told Hiddenbrooke still doesn't have a fire station, Councilmember Hermie Sunga said.

"I think it's a safety issue, something that has to be disclosed to buyers," Sunga said.

City staff said buyers will be told in the future they may have to pay for a new fire house.

Deputy City Attorney John Nagel reminded the council that residents can't be promised a fire station.

"Cities are not required to provide fire protection up to any certain standard," Nagel told the council.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Stephanie Gomes said she couldn't fully support the project, but said since it was part of a project already in the works she wouldn't challenge it.

"I don't like sprawl development," Gomes said. "This is a very good definition of sprawl."

Councilmember Tom Bartee was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.

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