It may have been 1:00 a.m. when the final recommendations were made, but the message was loud and clear: the Belmont Planning Commission cannot recommend in favor four of the five items associated with for a new middle school on Davis Drive to the Belmont City Council.
Five items were under consideration for recommendation to the city council—the Mitigated Negative Declaration, General Plan Amendment, Planned Development Rezoning, Conceptual Development Plan, and —for the development of the approximately 60,000 square-foot private middle school for 240 students.
After a review of the project by the city’s community development director, Carlos de Melo, and a presentation by Amy Richard, commission chair Kristen Mercer opened the public hearing on the proposal that has drawn a mix of and strong support from members of the community. Of the 15 or so members of the community who addressed the commission, the majority favored the project.
Belmont resident and soccer coach believes the project would be fiscally neutral, and that the traffic concerns would be mitigated by CSUS. “And the use of the sports fields would also be good for the community, especially since we’ve lost fields at Fox and Ralston,” Snider said.
Another speaker added that CSUS would be “A nice addition to Belmont’s educational eco-system.”
But for Belmont resident Bob Carrillo, the project doesn’t make sense financially, “It doesn’t benefit Belmont whatsoever. It’s going to cost our school district $80,000 cumulatively. Belmont is Belmont—people didn’t buy here to subsidize some rich people’s school.”
And , one of the project’s most outspoken opponents reiterated his concerns, “Traffic, noise, light pollution, loss of tranquility, loss of open space and loss of wealth to Belmont.”
At the close of the public hearing, the commissioners, under the direction of DeMelo, and with the support of the staff report and zoning maps, delved into the five items under consideration for recommendation to the city council—the Mitigated Negative Declaration; entitlements: General Plan Amendment, Planned Development Rezoning, Conceptual Development Plan; and Development Agreement.
On the Mitigated Negative Declaration, which is the environmental document associated with the project, six of the seven commissioners recommended in favor, with Commissioner Kenn Parsons being the dissenting vote.
“The noise study is deficient and new things keep popping up,” said Parsons.
The commission then packaged the three entitlements into one discussion since all related to the city’s General Plan. Of the General Plan Amendment , Planned Development Rezoning, and Conditional Development Plan, the majority of the commission recommended against on all three. However, commission chair Kristen Mercer stated that with some changes to the Conditional Development Plan, she would support it.
"Financially, this is a no brainer," said Mercer.
"However, there are a few sticking points--traffic, parking and pool noise," Mercer added.
Mercer made a case for keeping the actual tax revenues from the property in perspective, noting that now, only 10 percent of property taxes go to Belmont.
On the final item, the Development Agreement, the commission voted 6-1 not to recommend the project on the basis that it is not consistent with the city’s General Plan. Commissioner Eric Reed was the lone vote in support of the Development Agreement.
“This is a phenomenal deal for the city,” said Reed, making a case for a “bird in the hand.”
“The property will be dumped if this project doesn’t go forth, and the city will lose out. The notion that some other developer will come in here and give us what CSUS is giving us is preposterous,” added Reed.
Commissioner Parsons said he can't support the Development Agreement as written.
"People don't move to Belmont because we have high-priced schools, they move here because we have good public schools," said Parsons.
Mercer added, "I can't exactly recommend it, but I hope the city doesn't entirely walk away from the project."
"Be careful what you wish for," Mercer cautioned.
"You just might get it."
DeMelo reminded the commission that the approval of the project is a legislative act that can only be decided upon by the , and that the commission’s role was to take action on making recommendations in favor or against the Mitigated Negative Declaration, the three entitlements and the Development Agreement.
“We will transmit your proceedings to the city council,” said DeMelo as the clock struck 1:00 a.m.
The recommendations will likely be presented at the August 14 meeting of the Belmont City Council.
Belmont Patch will update this story as information becomes available.