Former council members want full evaluation of Del Rey Oaks’ growth.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Mike Ventimiglia and Jack Barlich were political rivals when they served on the Del Rey Oaks City Council. As soon as he lost a mayoral bid to Barlich in 2002, Ventimiglia resigned after 18 years on the council. Now the two men, who once fought fires together in Monterey, are looking to control a development blaze about to spread through Del Rey Oaks.
The two former councilmen—at the helm of separate community groups—are scrutinizing plans to more than double the size of the tiny city, which is wedged between Seaside and Monterey.
Del Rey Oaks is considering amendments to its general plan and other land-use documents that would allow more than 800 units to be built on its portion of the former Fort Ord. If the changes are approved, they will pave the way for a golf course and hotel project that includes a mix of villas and condos. The project would be located on about 360 acres east of Canyon Del Rey Road between General Jim Moore Boulevard and Ryan Ranch Road.
Although the developer, Federal Development, hasn’t submitted plans to the city yet, company officials are considering 691 homes, condos and timeshare units at full build-out, in addition to a golf course and two hotels. This is a huge shift from what Del Rey Oaks has proposed since the ‘90s: an 18-hole golf course, 350-room hotel/conference center, and a business park, with no housing.
The changes to the general plan and housing element could allow the population of Del Rey Oaks to increase from about 1,600 to more than 3,500.
The city doesn’t plan to do an Environmental Impact Report for the amendments. Instead, a city consultant prepared a mitigated negative declaration, which says the impacts on the environment will be reduced to a “less than significant” level. An EIR would not be prepared until Federal submits its project to the city.
Barlich heads the group Wake Up Del Rey Oaks. Its members complain that city officials haven’t told residents that their project has mushroomed in size and will include housing.
The project will create gridlock on Highways 68 and 218, Barlich says. All the environmental issues, including a traffic circulation plan, should be evaluated now instead of later.
“The whole plan is going to be as big as Del Rey Oaks is now,” Barlich says. “And they are trying to do it on a piecemeal negative declaration. That makes no sense.”
Both Wake Up Del Rey Oaks and Ventimiglia’s group, Del Rey Oaks Citizens Coalition for Expansion, want an EIR to study the project’s environmental effects. The Planning Commission and City Council will likely consider approving the amendments and mitigated negative declaration in February and March.
Mayor Joe Russell says an EIR will be commissioned when Federal submits a development plan to the city. Russell says the mitigated negative declaration is “not an analysis of the entire project because there is no project that has been submitted yet.”
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With no major industry, Del Rey Oaks has long desired a revenue-generating project to fill its coffers.
In the ‘90s the city courted two developers interested in building a hotel and golf course on its Fort Ord property. Both deals fell through. In July 2003 the city selected its third developer, Federal Development, a Washington, DC-based firm that also has military base reuse projects in the works in Texas and New Jersey. Federal was given the exclusive right to negotiate with the city to build a golf course resort.
Housing has been part of the project concept at least since late 2004. “We were shown that the projects just don’t work unless we have some housing to get things rolling,” Russell says. “They are economic engines so they can continue with the project.”
The projects’ first phase will consist of housing, a 104-room boutique hotel, and a golf course, says David Gazek, a Federal representative. Gazek says the firm is considering as many as 286 units in the first phase. The project application won’t be finalized until officials know how much water Del Rey Oaks will receive from the Fort Ord Reuse Authority. “Phase one is really going to be based on how much water there is in the future,” Gazek says.
Federal plans to submit an application by the end of March. At least 20 percent of the homes would be affordable.
Putting homes on the parcel, however, won’t be as simple as plowing over the chaparral and coastal scrub on the site—the Army used parts of the land for target practice training with machine guns, rifle grenades and shoulder-launched projectiles. The Army has cleaned the parcel but munitions like unexploded grenades may still be buried there.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has a covenant in place that restricts residential uses of the property. The covenant prohibits gardens and requires landscapers to get munitions recognition training. Federal is working with the department to test for munitions and do further cleanup if necessary so that they will lift the covenant.
The project also needs approval from the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA). The base reuse plan did not anticipate housing on the Del Rey Oaks site and more water would be needed. FORA can commit enough potable water for the first phase of the project but not the entire development, according to the city’s housing element.
Despite the roadblocks, Russell says the city will benefit financially from gains in transient occupancy and property tax. “It would make our city...financially independent,” he says.
Already the developer is paying Del Rey Oaks $350,000 each year for the next five years to keep the city fiscally stable until the resort opens.
But the city will have to share some of the tax revenue. More than half of the property tax money from the land will go to Monterey County because the county agreed to support Del Rey Oak’s annexation of the land.
Critics say Del Rey Oaks residents should get more benefits from the land, which is the last growth area for the city.
Ventimiglia says he’d like to see some land in the project zoned for park use so the City could build baseball fields, walking paths or a community center.
An 18-acre park will be included at the intersection of General Jim Moore Boulevard and South Boundary Road, Gazek says, adding that Federal is considering walking trails and a playground.
Ventimiglia says his group is not against the expanded version of the project but wants the environmental effects fully examined. “I am not saying we don’t want growth,” he says. “We need to understand prior to construction what we can do for that property, how can it really be used and what the impacts are going to be.”
|THE WEEKLY TALLY||4,857,814||
The number of Monterey-Salinas transit passenger trips in the 2006 fiscal year, or 13,309 each day. Thirty-two percent rode to work; 19 percent used it for shopping; 13 percent took it to school. Source: Monterey-Salinas Transit Annual Report.