Instead of tabling indefinitely, Antioch Commission continues public hearing on Sand Creek area update to Sept. 20

Vice Chair Parsons pushes for gated, senior housing community

By Allen Payton

Sand Creek Focus Area Specific Plan, Scenario 1 – Moderate Growth

After making the surprising recommendation to the Antioch Planning Commission to table indefinitely the General Plan Update for the Sand Creek Focus Area, Forrest Ebbs, the city’s Community Development Director modified it. At the commission’s Wednesday night meeting, he announced that he had changed his recommendation to a continuance of the public hearing on the update to the plan, for the remaining 2,800 of 4,000 planned homes.

“I’d like to modify my recommendation…to merely continue without a date certain,” Ebbs said. He suggested the commission could “continue this item to Sept. 20.”

“We’re going to spend time with our city attorney and CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) expert,” he explained. “We will deliver to the planning commission that it either A, proceed with the original recommendation (of adopting the update with the Amended Environmental Impact Report (EIR)); B, pursue a Supplemental EIR; C, continue or table the update; or 4, some other option.”

That is in response to letters from attorneys for two environmental groups and the East Bay Regional Parks District stating the Amended EIR is inadequate and the update requires a Supplemental EIR. That could take another year to 18 months to complete.

“We’ll have a scoping meeting on Sept. 6 on The Ranch project,” Ebbs stated. “It will require an EIR.”

That is because the developer of that project, Richland Communities, is not waiting for the update to be finalized, and has submitted their plan under the existing Sand Creek Focus Area Specific Plan, included in the city’s General Plan, and EIR approved by the city council in 2003.

Planning Commission Vice Chair Martha Parsons asked for “clarification.”

“The Ranch is out there,” she said. “I understand the Albers property…may be out there. Knowing what it costs developers with infrastructure and time tables, how much does staff want to put this off? Is there anything that will guarantee those that are already in the pipeline…I’m really anxious to get a senior housing project. Everyone is begging for a senior housing project.”

Ebbs responded by saying “Albers Ranch – the Olive Groves – is just a preliminary plan submittal. The Ranch includes a General Plan Amendment.”

“Anyone who would like to see these plans can see them on our website,” he said, turning to the few members of the public in the audience.

Parsons followed up, stating “what we do tonight will affect developers, plans, people’s livelihoods.”

Ebbs replied, “Two projects are read to come out of the ground in the next year,” referring to the Aviano Farms and Blackhawk’s Vineyards projects that were approved by the city council, last year. “It will be 16 or 17 years before they build the homes on the hillsides,” referring to The Ranch and Albers’ projects.

Parsons stressed her desire for an active, senior adult residential project.

“The public is telling me what they want…we live in an aging community…people are asking ‘when are we going to get a gated, senior housing community?’”

Ebbs assured her that “this will not affect them at all,” if the commission chose to table the update, which they’ve been working on for over a year.

“They (the developers) can apply for a General Plan Amendment,” he said. “But that is not illegal.”

“The city council will have the opportunity to make a decision,” Parsons responded.

The commission votes are recommendations to the council, which has the final say on new development projects.

Commissioner Kerry Motts told Ebbs, “You took away all my talking points. We will look on Sept. 20th at the Supplemental EIR or something else.”

Following the discussion, and with no new public comments on the matter, the commissioners voted 6-0, with Commissioner Ken Turnage II absent, to continue the public hearing to Wednesday, Sept. 20.

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