Questions about the City Ventures project along Moraga way began almost as soon as the story poles marking the project’s proposed roof lines and construction footprint went up alongside Station 41. And a new fight appears to be brewing as the Moraga planning commission appears evenly divided on the issue and the future of the project remains in doubt.
The condo/town home project, first proposed in 2012 and whittled back from 54 to 36 dwelling units by developer City Ventures, LLC, of Newport Beach since then – quickly became the object of a contentious debate between developers, downtown property owners, and residents who criticized the project for a look and feel they said was out of character with Moraga.
Originally green-lighted as consistent with the town’s specific plan regulating growth in the downtown area, a citizens group submitted a petition opposing construction of the the par 4-sized three-acre parcel, sandwiched between the fire station, office buildings, Moraga Way and Country Club Drive last year. The developer and downtown property owner Russell J. Bruzzone, Inc. filed a lawsuit demanding that the town reject the citizen’s referendum. The Town Council approved a resolution denying the appeal by a 4-1 vote, with council member Teresa Onoda opposed, last May, and the project appeared headed back to the planning commission for further review, discussion, and – it was largely expected – approval.
But not so fast. New appointments to the planning commission this past year have changed its makeup and, perhaps, its direction.
At the commission’s July 18 meeting a vote to approve City Ventures under the guidelines imposed by the General Development Plan cleaved the commission cleanly down the middle, with three commissioners (Steve Woehleke, Tom Marnane, Ferenc Kovac) voting to approve and three others (Suzanne D’Arcy, Christine Kuckuk, and Kymberleigh Korpus) voting no.
It appears that while half the commissioners believed they were obligated by law to approve the project’s General Development Plan based on its language, three others did not feel so restricted, voting to reject the GDP as written.
At any rate, what some may have believed would be a relatively straightforward construction project has already proved to be contentious and probably destined for further future argument relative to its language and design.