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Home approval upsets some in Edwards

Tamara Miller

Despite a fervent campaign by neighbors, the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday approved the development of 24 single-family homes at the end of Allen Circle in Edwards’ Homestead subdivision.County Commissioners Tom Stone and Mike Gallagher voted for project, known as Heritage Park, noting the development complies with requirements in planning policies established by the county and in Edwards.Though county planners had endorsed Heritage Park, the commissioners’ approval went against a key advisory board’s recommendation to turn down the project. Commissioner Arn Menconi voted against Heritage Park, echoing opponents’ concerns about the project’s density and traffic congestion.Several residents, like Suzanne Smith, showed up for Tuesday’s meeting because, neighbors said, they fear the new homes will increase Homestead traffic so much that children won’t be safe. The only entrance and exit to the 24 homes will be Allen Circle, a cul-de-sac.Smith brought her infant son along to the meeting to drive home her point with the commissioners. “Somebody’s child is going to get hurt,” she said. “I pray it’s not mine.”A public campaignMore than 30 people showed up for Tuesday’s meeting to voice their opinions. In all, it took commissioners nearly four hours to wade through developer Jim Guida’s presentation, the planning department’s report and public comment. The discussion highlighted the conflict between residents’ desires, policy regulations and planners’ recommendations.”If we’re going to have development, and we are, what rules are we going to use?” asked Mike Matzko, who spoke in support of the project. The development will have 24 single-family homes, none smaller than 3,200 square feet. There will be about two homes per acre on the 11.5-acre site. The homes will be sold in the $600,000 to $800,000 price range.The developer’s team presented the project as a classic example of proper residential growth. Heritage Park will be built amongst existing neighborhoods, a type of project known as an “infill development” that is encouraged by county growth policies.”The key thing that we see is we are following the master plan in placing development where it should be,” said Terrill Knight, owner of Knight Planning Services, which is working with Guida on the project.The development team has met with the Homestead Homeowner’s Association several times to try and reach a compromise on the resident’s objections, said Tom Boni, also with Knight Planning Services. The size of the project has been cut nearly in half since then, and open space has been increased to make up 35 percent of the development, Boni said. Nevertheless, the density is higher than the rest of Homestead development, several argued.”We would not be here today if he was proposing 12 single-family lots,” one man said.Others argued the developer’s belief single-family homes in that price range are needed was unfounded. Menconi also pointed out that there is and will continue to be a need for affordable housing for the county’s employee base.More than 120 signed a petition stating their opposition of the project, and even more have written letters to county commissioners asking the development be stopped. The group that attended Tuesday’s meeting to oppose the project even prepared a presentation to explain their stance.Master Plan above all?One Homestead resident parted with his neighbors in supporting the project. Rich Howard dismissed arguments that Heritage Park would be an eyesore because it will be visible to surrounding neighborhoods. Howard said nearly every development in the Edwards community is visible to surrounding neighborhoods. Stone and Gallagher were also unswayed and wondered aloud how its advisory board, called the Planning Commission, came to deny the project. The commissioners said Heritage Park appeared to meet all the criteria required for approval in the county master plan, a document that guides development in unincorporated neighborhoods such as Edwards. “I would suspect because of the public outcry,” Gallagher said. “I am compelled to follow the master plan.”Stone agreed, adding that while the Planning Commission usually gives careful recommendations to commissioners on projects, “the Planning Commission did not do a good job this time,” he said.The project was approved with several conditions, including the requirement that traffic flaggers be available during construction to ensure the safety of residents and children. Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: tmiller@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.


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