The Coastal Post - November, 1997

Wear Down The Opposition: Hearing Postponed On Mountain Gate Development Until Nov. 4

By Marian Breeze

The Board of Supervisors met on October 14 to decide the fate of the clear cut hillside a mile west of Tam Junction, known as the Mountain Gate development. At issue is whether the developer missed a deadline in 1992 to build the project. The developer intends to squeeze 41 homes in on the lower half of the hill. Another group of developers intends to put 33 more houses on the upper area, which includes a ridge now covered with trees.

In September, the Planning Commission voted that the project had lapsed. Their ruling meant that the developer must start from scratch, with a new Environmental Impact Report. Any new proposed development would have to adhere to new tougher environmental standards. The Commission's ruling was a surprise to many because they went against the advice of the County's own legal counsel. Pacific Union, the developers of Mountain Gate, appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors.

As the Supervisors meeting was called to order, former Supervisor Gary Giacomini, who now represents the developer, asked for and was granted a continuance. "We've got more than eight million dollars invested in this hillside and we're not prepared to go forward today. [The Shoreline Gateway Association] just filed a bunch of papers and we haven't had time to thoroughly review them", said Giacomini. According to Scott Davidson of the County Planning Department, there is no deadline for filing papers. People can even submit documents at the hearing itself.

The Shoreline Gateway Association (SGA) is an organization of Tam Valley and West Marin residents who are concerned about the visual, traffic, drainage, and fire safety issues of the project. SGA filed the original appeal to the Planning Commission on behalf of its members.

The more than 40 people who were present at the meeting to speak against the project opposed the continuance. However, as Supervisor Harry Moore explained, "We have a tradition of granting one continuance unless there are emergency circumstances preventing it. Otherwise we could set ourselves up

for a lawsuit, for not allowing due process. We would grant one continuance, but that's it."

Several people got up to speak, including Keith Ehrman, a Mill Valley resident and neighbor of the project: "This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to discourage people from being here, from coming out to speak. I took a day off from work, as did many of the folks you see here today. This

is a poorly conceived project with more than enough legal reasons to uphold the planning commission's decision." Another resident suggested that every person who came to speak against the project bring two neighbors to the next meeting.

SGA representative Chris Figueroa is encouraging everyone who uses Shoreline Highway and has traffic concerns to fax the Board of Supervisors at 499-3645. "We need to let them know how important Shoreline Highway is in our everyday lives. A trip that would take 15 minutes can take 45 minutes on a sunny weekend. Tam Junction and Manzanita are already at breakdown levels of service. We can't add 300 car trips onto a Highway that was in bad shape ten years ago. It's obviously gotten worse since then."

According to the Environmental Impact Report that was completed in 1987, Shoreline Highway exceeded maximum traffic capacity as measured by the California Highway Patrol. The EIR didn't address the traffic issues at any of the major intersections surrounding the project, so the impacts are not known. One can safely assume that adding 300 car trips will make traffic worse.

Figueroa adds, "We can't count on Shoreline being a viable escape route in an emergency. Some fire officials have said we should plan on walking out. Increasing the housing density and traffic makes the situation more dangerous." Adds Figueroa, "Our chance to affect major changes to development in Southern Marin is now. People need to fax the Board and, even more importantly, show up at the hearing." The new hearing is scheduled for Tuesday November 4 at 2:30 p.m. at the Marin County Civic Center, 3rd Floor in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room.

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