SAN DIMAS — The City Council, dismayed that a developer is seeking county approval for a major residential project while bypassing the city's review process, will consider ways to persuade the developer to resume discussions with the city.
For more than a year Century American, an Orange-based development firm, had been talking to city officials about a 119-home development in an unincorporated area north of Via Verde. The area is in the city's sphere of influence and, had the development been approved by San Dimas, it would have been annexed by the city.
But last month, Century American filed its proposed tract map with the county Department of Regional Planning, which means the county will make the final decision on the project.
Councilman Sandy McHenry said that representatives of Century American indicated to him that they believed they had a better chance of getting approval from the county than from the city. Century American Project Manager Robert Long did not return repeated calls from The Times.
"Obviously when you've put the time into a project as we did into that one, and it all comes to naught, you're extremely disappointed," City Manager Robert Poff said.
At a special meeting Saturday, the council asked City Atty. Kenneth Brown to research just how much influence the city still has over the project and scheduled a meeting with the Hillside Committee for Oct. 10 to discuss ways to woo the developer back, Councilman Dennis Bertone said. The committee--which includes council members, residents and city staff--makes recommendations to the city's Planning Commission on developments in hillside areas.
All council members were concerned about the city losing control over the development, Bertone said.
"The feeling was, if Century American was willing to come back, we would be willing to work with them," he said.
After reviews of a draft environmental impact report and several meetings with the Hillside Committee, city officials were expecting Century American's formal application soon, Poff said.
"As a result (of city input) they've got a better plan, but we're not getting compensated for the time," said Poff, referring to fees for plan checking and permits the developer would have paid had the firm continued the process with the city.
"The developer felt the map maybe wouldn't be approved by the council or might be delayed because of the elections coming up" in April, said Poff, who was informed by letter of the firm's decision.
The county Subdivision Committee will review Century American's proposal Sept. 29, said Bernice Harrington, a regional planning assistant for the county. The firm also must apply for a zone change because the land is zoned agricultural and requires a minimum lot size of one acre, she said.
The average lot size proposed by the developer was about one-third of an acre, according to San Dimas Community Development Director Larry Stevens. The land is designated as open space in the city's General Plan.
The developers are proposing to build the 119 single-family homes on about 57 acres they are buying from the Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College, which owns 150 acres west of the Foothill Freeway.
McHenry and Bertone had previously voiced objections about the density and aesthetics of the project.
"It's as nice a piece of property as exists in the whole city," McHenry said. "We would've preferred custom homes, they were proposing tract homes. I would identify all significant healthy trees, and lot sizes should be nothing smaller than an acre."
The developers, who were discussing placement of access roads with city officials, are now considering construction of a fire-access road in the unincorporated area. Residents living on county land next to the proposed development are miffed at the proposed change because it could bring a road closer to their homes.
"The people in our area are just adamant against any type of (road)," said Steven Roberts, president of the Mesa Oaks Homeowners Assn., which represents owners of about 115 homes southwest of the site.
The developers met with a dozen homeowners in the Mesa Oaks neighborhood Monday evening to explain the project and hear the residents' concerns.
Because the Mesa Oaks area is county land, the residents have not been notified of hearings held by San Dimas on the proposal.
"All of a sudden we have this whole thing dumped in our laps," Roberts said.