Monday, 15 July 2024

Planning commission hears Plum Flat subdivision plan, continues discussion

LAKEPORT – Last Thursday the updated plans for a new subdivision proposed to be located near the Clear Lake Riviera went before the Lake County Planning Commission, which after holding a discussion decided to continue the matter until next month.


The 30-lot Plum Flat Subdivision, proposed by partners including civil engineer Scott Bennett and architect Vincent Price, would be located on 105 acres at 10929 Point Lakeview Road in Kelseyville. Commissioners Cliff Swetnam and Bob Malley were absent for the discussion.


Residents of Bel Air Drive West, Bel Air Drive East and Bel Air Drive in the neighboring Clear Lake Riviera have raised issues with the plan, citing increased traffic, fire danger and sprawl, as well as their concern that the original plan was for 105 lots, and that the developers were keeping that option open.


Planner Emily Minton told the commission that if the developers wanted to build more than one home per five acres, they would have to go through a planned development process for a rezone.


Plum Flat LLC had worked with the then-owner of 500 acres adjacent to the proposed subdivision area to get access to Soda Bay Road in addition to Point Lakeview, but Minton said those negotiations didn't go anywhere.


She said the county was unsure of the groundwater supply and wanted to see more data. There also are many oak trees on the property, and new oak-related regulations are coming out yearly, which could impact the plans.


Deputy County Counsel Bob Bridges pointed out that the 105 acres, once open space is subtracted, is down to 60 acres or so, and the county's subdivision ordinance requires an acre per residence when septic tanks and individual water wells are used, such as the developers suggested might be done in this case.


Bennett, who said they were asking for a general plan of development for 30 lots, explained that they have an easement with a local family for access to the proposed subdivision.


He was concerned about the proposal of a 150-foot buffer, which he said they could live with on the south and east sides, but didn't think it was reasonable on the north and west.


Bennett said they wanted the option of going with a community water system, shared wells or individual wells, and said they may need to put in a test well.


He said he and his partners wanted to get past this first step, see how many lots they will have, and then do the research and spend the money to find if they need wells or a small water system. Bennett said they also want to preserve the site's big oak trees.


Commission Chair Clelia Baur asked him about their long-term plans.


“At this point it's 30 lots and that's it,” said Bennett, adding that they have to see how things go in the economy and with the county's growth.


The plan calls for a less dense arrangement than the Rivieras – Bennett said he didn't like that subdivisions higher densities – and for a 60-foot right-of-way that would include a road, and hiking and biking trails.


After 30 lots Bennett said they “may” stop at that, but Bennett added that even if they did 100 lots on the remaining 60 acres they would be good-sized lots that are three times the size of the typical Riviera lot.


“We don't know what the economy is bringing us,” he said.


Bennett said the partners wanted to keep moving in the direction designated by county planners and the Rivieras Area Committee. “We're just taking it one little step at a time.”


District 1 Planning Commissioner Michael van der Boon asked Bennett where the lots would be. Bennett said they would be strewn throughout the property, but located mostly in the middle. A specific plan of development would have those details, he said.


In the following public comment, the commission heard questions about the road easement, traffic, fire access and what the developers really planned to do.


Rivieras resident Walter Zuercher said he didn't like all of Bennett's “maybes,” explaining that if Bennett and his partners are going to develop just 30 lots he should say so.


Zuercher added that Bel Air Drive would likely become the main access to the site because of the distance from Highway 281.


Debi Freeland told the commission, “I can't stress enough that this is probably going to 104 (lots).”


She said she wanted to help protect the future serenity of her neighborhood. “It's taken me a lot of years to get to this community.”


There are abundant deer and quail in the area, which she wanted to see protected, adding that residents in her area don't want to see a public access road to the proposed subdivision.


Plum Flat lacks a traffic study, and Freeland pointed out there already is pavement failure which will only get worse.


Then there was fire danger and Plum Flat's desire to have access to community services, which Freeland said come and go.


She said the mitigated negative declaration doesn't have proper mitigations for her concerns, and she asked the commission to require a full environmental impact report on the project.


Monica Rosenthal, conservation chair for the Sierra Club Lake Group, said designated zoning under the county's general plan isn't the only consideration for developing parcels – other guidelines and infrastructure must be considered as well.


She said a general plan of development isn't held to specifics, but even so the 30 lots must meet the general plan's specified requirements.


Referring to Bennett's statements about economics, Rosenthal said they also must consider the community, its safety and the environment.


Van der Boon said if the developers ultimately intended to develop 104 lots, that should be the consideration from the beginning, not just 30 lots, he said.


District 5 Planning Commissioner Gil Schoux asked if they can take Bel Air Drive East and West out of the plan as access routes. Minton said the commission can create a general plan of development condition that gives no access to those roads, and Schoux said he would be OK with the plan if that was done.


Baur said she realized the neighbors treasure their serenity, but explained that it wasn't fair to deny others their right to develop property within acceptable rules and regulations.


However, she continued. “In my opinion, there is too much still up in the air with this.”


She said she wasn't convinced that they knew where the water was going to come from, and questioned the true number of homes that would be developed.


“I'm reluctant to go forward with something when there is so clearly up in the air the intention to expand it,” she said, noting that she wanted to see all phases at once, as well as all impacts on air, emergency services and which oak trees would be saved.


“Just too much is not known in my opinion on this,” she said.


Van der Boon said he wanted the matter to be continued so the commission could gather more information.


Price, asking to speak on the matter, told the commission. “What you're asking for is everything that would be required under the specific plan. We're not asking for a specific plan. We're asking for a general plan. It's two totally different requests.”


Pointing to 30 densely packed lots in an area of the Riviera near Plum Flat location, Price asked, “How are we possibly, possibly, impacting the tranquility of the Rivieras when you have that entire configuration?”


Baur said she wasn't addressing serenity, but had questions about other things, such as water.


Price said those issues will be addressed in the specific plan of development. “You will have every bit of information that you could possibly want to have,” said Price, adding that imposing those restrictions at this time shouldn't be done.


Returning to the microphone, Rosenthal explained that what Price said was true, but added that the general plan has policies that require adequate information about available infrastructure, roadways and sewage.


After Baur closed the public hearing, Bridges explained that they needed three votes to do anything, and with it appearing that they didn't have enough votes, he suggested they should continue the matter to give Swetnam and Malley a chance to review the documents and listen to the meeting recordings.


With Baur and van der Boon leaning against approval but Schoux OK with it if the access roads were changed, they agreed with the applicants to continue the matter to 9:10 a.m. on Aug. 26.


In other meeting business, in a 3-0 vote the commission approved Michael Mims' plan for a small winery producing 15,000 cases of wine or less per year and tasting room at 737 and 755 E. Highway 20 in Upper Lake. An existing 544-square-foot home on the site would be converted to a tasting room, with grapes harvested off-site until the winery is established.


The commission heard Barry Shaffer's appeal of Eric Olof's small winery and tasting room at 5615 Highland Springs Road in Lakeport, but decided to bring it back on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. to give the two parties an opportunity to work out some of their issues.


Shaffer, who sold Olof the property 10 years ago, is concerned that the value of his home – one of the oldest in the county – will suffer from having to share a roadway easement with a business.


Olof's attorney Andre Ross, responding to Shaffer's objections, argued that Shaffer was overstating the number of visitors the winery would draw.


A public hearing for a major use permit for Lakeport Outlaw Karting's proposed go-cart race track was rescheduled.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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