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Who Gets The High Ground?

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Pro-Growth, No-Growth - battle lines are shaping up in a fight over Moraga's growth rate - but is it too late?

A curse for those who have lived in The Numbers for any length of time is memory of how “things used to be,” of hilltops free of development and open to neighborhood kids with apples or carrots for largely bemused horses and cattle. It is a memory common to those whose families were lucky enough to have gotten here early, now, perhaps, they are a quaint vestige of bygone times – like most of those horses and cattle.

The future of the ridgelines up and down the 24-680 Corridor – be they pristine and green reminders of an untrammeled California or bedecked with the banners of their new owners – is being hammered out as we speak. In little Moraga, preservation groups see the arrival of more than 1,000 new homes – and the cars and people that come with them – encroaching on areas deemed protected under open space mandates. Builders and property owners, on the other hand, see opportunity – and a chance for the town to grow. Also open to debate are the rights of property owners to develop their land as they please, rights many regard as sacrosanct.

Ridgeline development

Moraga’s town planners have forwarded proposals for creation of “overlay districts” limiting development on sites with a 20 percent slope or more, as well as restrictions on the amount of grading that can be done. Land owners and developers like Dave Bruzzone, whose family owns much of the undeveloped land in Moraga, have criticized the Town Council’s protectionist stance, saying that barring development of his property will only drive housing downtown – equally unpopular with many in town concerned about congestion and future egress.

A series of recent, town-hosted meetings with stakeholders and interested members of the community have drawn respectable crowds, with more than 80 neighbors turning out for a public workshop on the issue April 16. Another public workshop is being planned for early June.

With the prevailing response from new arrivals drawn to the 24-680 Corridor being the the allure of the area’s “semi-rural” character, those concerned by the push of development into spaces once reserved for cows and horses are seeking to preserve a semblance of those quaint childhood memories for the future. The discussion of the future look and feel of our neighborhoods is happening now. Many neighbors, some of them kids who roamed our ridges and hillsides in the not-so-distant past – are trying to save some of what was once easy for us to find and enjoy.