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Planning Commission recommends small Montopolis condo complex

Monday, July 28, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

A proposal for a modest Montopolis condominium complex cleared the Planning Commission last week, despite concerns by a member of a local neighborhood association.

Simon and Ronaldo Brown-Valdez are seeking a zoning change from SF-3 to SF-5 for their property at 2309 Montopolis Drive. That change would allow up to 10 condominium units on their one-acre lot, though developers expect they will be limited to six units due to fire code restrictions.

The Planning Commission approved staff recommendation in a 5-0 vote. Staff recommendation allows the change with a prohibition on some civic uses in a conditional overlay. Chair Danette Chimenti and Commissioners Alfonso Hernandez, Richard Hatfield and Brian Roark were absent.

Fred McGhee wrote a letter in opposition to the change on behalf of the Carson Ridge Neighborhood Association, though he was not present at the meeting. In his letter, he explained that the infrastructure in that part of Montopolis could not support such intense zoning. McGhee is a candidate for City Council District 3.

“We would also like to inform the applicant that he should have chosen to work with our association before deciding to de-vegetate his lots,” wrote McGhee. “His operation caused impacts along Carson Ridge, environmental impacts, traffic impacts, and was disrespectful of present residents.”

Simon Brown-Valdez explained the removal of the trees in question was not his doing, and was not on his property.

“Actually, I was very upset,” he said. “It affected about half of our property and the back part of our property was great, because it was surrounded by all of these trees. Now they are all gone.”

Brown-Valdez said that he and his partner planned to live on the property, and hoped to keep as much of the vegetation as they could. He explained that their property faced a 17-acre tract that is about to start construction on an apartment complex. To the north of their property is a 15-acre apartment complex; to the east are single-family homes. He pointed out that a steep hill separates the two developments.

Plans call for a mix of two- and three-bedroom homes of 1,200 to 1,300 square feet.

Susana Almanza, who is running against McGhee in the District 3 Council race, spoke as the president of the Montopolis Neighborhood Plan Contact Team. She explained that while they had reviewed the zoning change, they were neither in support or opposed to the change.

“There were several dilemmas with this particular issue. They did front next to condominiums and multifamily housing, so a lot of people thought it met the compatibility standards. But because we did have a member – Dr. Fred McGhee – who was adamantly opposed to it, the team decided just to not take a stand one way or another,” said Almanza.

The Planning Commission was less conflicted, and voted unanimously to recommend the change.

“The zoning change seems to be pretty consistent with the study, seems to be remarkably compatible with surrounding uses and doesn’t have significant opposition from the neighborhood. It’s OK with me,” said Commissioner James Nortey.

Though some residents submitted a petition on the zoning case June 24, the city had not yet validated it by the meeting. If the petition is valid, Council members will have to approve the zoning change with at least six affirmative votes.

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