By Tina Richards
The Design Review Committee (DRC) for the City of Orange approved the architecture and landscaping plans for the proposed New Home Company’s Marywood development at a public hearing, Aug. 19.
Homeowners whose properties are close to the 40-unit development, slated to be built atop Villareal Drive at the site of the former Marywood Catholic School, crowded the meeting room. They came with notes, maps, and documents, prepared to express their concerns about the negative impacts the project's traffic, density, grading and excavating will have on their community.
Many public speakers were cut short, however, because those issues are beyond the scope of the DRC. Committee members listened to residents’ arguments against tandem garages, predictions of too little parking, worries about dust and noise generated by a 13-hour-per-day excavating schedule, and perceptions that retaining walls were insufficient, but Chair Carolyn Fox repeatedly advised the audience that those issues were “beyond our purview.”
Outfall over infill
Fox did, however, ask for clarification from City Planner Robert Garcia, when homeowners charged that the project should fall within city guidelines for “infill” development, but it appeared that it hadn’t. Meeting attendees reported that infill guidelines should be followed because the project was being built in a pocket surrounded by an existing neighborhood. That, resident Michael Lebeau pointed out, was the definition of “infill development.”
Garcia explained that those guidelines applied only to small-scale subdivisions of four houses or less, and that the city did not consider this 40-unit project to be “infill.” LeBeau questioned city staff’s decision, noting the language he had seen regarding infill development referred simply to single family dwellings. Robert told him he’d have to take it up with the city attorney.
Residents raised the issue because developments considered “infill” must “conform to surrounding structures” and those new communities cannot be gated. Some Marywood neighbors find the proposed houses to be too big for the lots, and they are offended that a gate is in the offing. Lebeau confronted a New Home architect who had emphasized the project’s “walkability.” “Why don’t you open it up so we can all enjoy it?” he asked.
Less dust to settle
While the gate remains an open issue, New Homes consultant Peter Carlson reports that the company is doing its best to address the neighbors’ concerns. “We want to be a good neighbor,” he said.
“We’ve modified construction hours from what the city ordinance allows to a self-imposed restriction of 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.” Hours for grading will be the same, although some Saturday hours may be necessary.
Carlson points out that the company’s decision to keep the concrete, asphalt and stone from demolished structures on the site and use them as fill material was made to minimize impacts on the neighborhood. “We recognize construction will be disruptive,” he said. “So we’re using a single 300 horsepower diesel motor to crush the material, rather than taking 950 truck trips to haul it away. And it would take another 400 truck trips to bring in more fill material.”
The DRC will recommend approval of the project to the planning commission. It has retained jurisdiction over several small design details that it wants to review again before New Homes pulls building permits.
Marywood neighbors continue to organize their objections, which they plan to present to the planning commission when that public hearing is scheduled.