Antioch Council approves 180-home Laurel Ranch subdivision, hears again from Save the Yard

colored-mapBy Nick Goodrich

On Tuesday, September 13th, the Antioch City Council approved the 180-unit Laurel Ranch housing development, and heard more criticism from the Save the Yard supporters about the City’s plan to construct townhomes on the former Antioch Lumber Company lot and more complaints about Animal Services, during their regular meeting.

Public Comments

Members of the public offered their opinions to Council on a variety of topics, including the Antioch Lumber Company lot, during public comments.

The state of Antioch’s Animal Shelter was raised once again, just weeks after Harper promised to put the issue on Council’s official agenda next January.

Antioch Resident Sharon Bennett was concerned that new dogs and cats were not being regularly scanned for owners’ microchips, and called for an experienced manager to be brought in to “make the right decisions and hire the correct personnel” to address some of the problems the shelter faces.

Another resident was surprised to find that the shelter is not using the app Petfinder, which creates profiles for new intakes in order to help get them adopted faster. With the kill rate at Antioch’s shelter higher than the average, according to resident Magella Smith, using Petfinder could both save animals slated for euthanization and cut costs by finding them homes more quickly.

Barabara Sobalvarro, President of Friends of Animal Services, also shared her thoughts. She reminded the audience of the ongoing adoption event at the shelter for the month of September, during which all adoptions will cost only $50.

She also noted that while even FAS can be critical of the shelter at times, it is important to be constructive and offer up ways to help the shelter improve when doing so.

“If you’re going to be critical, you need to be part of the solution,” Sobalvarro added.

Most of the speakers, however, were focused on the historic Antioch Lumber Company yard in downtown, which the City has designated for the construction of new townhomes rather than a new park and event center.

During a recent candidate forums Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock and Councilmembers Monica Wilson and Mary Rocha expressed their desire to see the issue put to a vote of the community, allowing Antioch residents to make the decision.

At Tuesday’s meeting, both Ogorchock and Wilson suggested reclassifying the lot from “Medium Density” to “Open Space”, which would prevent the City from developing it in the near future, and clear the way for the Save the Yard movement to begin raising funds for a new event center.

Some citizens saw this recent change of heart as an insult, however, as a town square initiative aimed at putting the Town Square park and event center proposal on the ballot in November, had already failed. A second effort is currently underway.

One speaker, Arleen Lantern, said, “This is like a slap in the face to those of us that want a gathering place and event center in the Lumber Yard.” She called for Mayor Wade Harper to put the issue on City Council’s official agenda immediately, as well as for public forums to be held quarterly by the City.

Michael Amarosa, a longtime Antioch resident, shared his thoughts on the Waldie Plaza event center plans put forth by the City during the last Council meeting.

“No doubt Waldie Plaza needs a major reboot,” he said, “But make it your legacy to finally improve our downtown by making the Beede lumber yard something special.”

However, in closed session on August 25, 2015 the council by a vote 4-1 with Ogorchock dissenting, gave City Manager Steve Duran the exclusive right to negotiate the sale of that property and eight other city-owned parcels, with developer City Ventures. Those negotiations are still underway.

Location of the Laurel Ranch subdivision.

Location of the Laurel Ranch subdivision.

Laurel Ranch Subdivision Approved

Later in the meeting, the council oversaw a public hearing on the proposed Laurel Ranch Subdivision, which included a presentation by developer Richland Communities.

The subdivision, which includes 180 single-family homes in two neighborhoods, will be situated on the northwest corner of Highway 4 and Laurel Road. One neighborhood will consist of 88 homes with minimum lot sizes of 4,000 square feet with home sizes ranging from 1,750 to 3,000 square feet, plus two parks. The private lane neighborhood will consist of 92 homes with minimum lot sizes of 2,500 square feet and homes ranging in size from 1,800 to 2,200 square feet.

According to the project’s architectural design guide, there will be “one 10,000 SF park containing an all-abilities play structure, a lawn area, and traditional park furniture. Another 5,200 SF sitting park will provide residents with a small lawn area and park furniture for an informal gathering area. From this small pocket park, there will be a trail that will connect to a section of the East Lone Tree Specific Plan’s trail system.”

Richland Communities, which has been working on the project since 2014, noted that a big advantage of the development will be the completion of Laurel Road, connecting the current portion of the road in Antioch to Highway 4. Plus, it will occur at no cost to the City, greatly increasing accessibility to the area.

private-lane-neighborhood-graphicClifton Taylor, Vice President of Richland, was on hand to deliver the presentation to the council. He reported that concerns from two years ago, like house floor plans and trail access, had been fully addressed to the satisfaction of the city.

In addition, Taylor noted that the project does fund the extra police services that the development will require, good news to Antioch residents who do not want to see any unnecessary spikes in taxes to pay for them.

Richland has planned for two parks within the subdivision, and also reported that it will contribute $2.7 million toward the completion of Slatten Ranch Road.

Another big aspect of Richland’s project includes its Project Labor Agreement, which highlights its commitment to local hiring and training. Richland will bring in labor from the surrounding area, which encouraged speakers like Jim Foley, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to support the project.

Fees from the new homes will also help pay for the extension of Slatten Ranch Road, north of the J.C. Penney store, and connect it to Laurel Road, providing access to the land for commercial development and employment uses.

“Two hundred electricians live in Antioch,” Foley told the council. “They want the opportunity to work in their city.”

John Malcolm Jr., a 40 year resident of Antioch, also shared his thoughts.

“To work where you live is important,” he said. Malcolm also noted that traffic will improve due to the completion of both Laurel and Slatten Ranch Roads, and the city will gain a larger tax base from the new residents.

Taylor  also spoke about Richland’s successful community outreach plans, during which it received positive feedback on the project from residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Overall, after some questions fielded to Richland’s representatives, the council seemed impressed with the project.

“It looks like you’re leaving no stone unturned,” said Harper.

Wilson said of the Laurel Road extension, “We need it so bad.”

After input from the public, it was clear the Council was ready to move forward with the plans. They voted unanimously, 5-0, to approve the addenda to the project and allow Richland to move on to the next step.

Richland Communities will begin the final designs immediately, and hopes to begin construction by 2018 at the latest. To view the complete Laurel Ranch Architectural Design Guide, click here: laurel-ranch-adg

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3 Comments to “Antioch Council approves 180-home Laurel Ranch subdivision, hears again from Save the Yard”

  1. Barry says:

    all right Nick home town boy makes good

  2. Hector says:

    This Laurel Rd connection should have been completed by the City of Antioch years ago. Why do we have to wait for a real estate developer to do it?? It’s bad enough that East Contra Costa County is a huge cul-de-sac (one way in, one way out) that we don’t need to create more cul-de-sac’s by not connecting roads that benefit all citizens. It does not make sense to have to drive north two miles, or south two miles to go east and access the Slatten Ranch stores. Poor city planning. Does anyone there know what they are doing?

    • Publisher says:

      Thank you for reading the Herald and for your comment.
      The City of Antioch doesn’t pay to build new streets. Developers do that through per home development fees.
      There’s long been a policy and practice of making new growth pay its own way. The current residents and taxpayers of the city don’t want to pay for new roads that benefit the new development.
      The city’s capital improvement budget pays for road repairs, and some widening in the older parts of town. Not new or widened roads in the new parts of Antioch.
      It would have happened sooner had there not been the economic downturn of 2008, which pretty much caused all new home construction to cease.
      But you are correct East County is a cul-de-sac. The way that will be remedied is with the construction of the proposed 4-lane freeway, known as Route 239 between Brentwood and Tracy, w which has been on the books for 60 years and is just recently started to be planned. It will connect from the end of Highway 4 and connect to I-5.
      That will help open up East County for economic growth and local job creation. However, funds to cover the estimated cost of $1 billion for the road have not yet been identified.
      Allen Payton, Publisher

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