The Pine Cone's sixth story of the week

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Council opposes hospital condo project

By MARY BROWNFIELD

Published: April 9, 2010

THE CARMEL City Council stated its formal opposition Tuesday to the Villas de Carmelo condo project proposed for the site of the old Carmel Convalescent Hospital on Valley Way. The hospital is outside city limits but within Carmel’s county-recognized sphere of influence. Without debate, the council adopted a resolution opposing the development as part of its consent calendar.

“The project proposes the adaptive reuse of the two existing historic buildings and the construction of several new buildings to accommodate 46 residential units and associated improvements,” planning and building services manager Sean Conroy told the council in his April 6 report. “This resolution expresses opposition to the project based on potentially significant impacts to the city residents.”

City officials expressed their concerns about the project when the environmental impact report was circulated last spring, and a June 3, 2009, comment letter cited “several aspects of the project, including its effect on aesthetics, cultural resources, land use/planning and transportation,” Conroy said.

The resolution summarized the council’s reasons for fighting the project, including how it would violate the city’s general plan.

One policy “encourages areas in the sphere of influence to continue the existing pattern of low density development,” while another “encourages the city to support efforts to reduce congestion on Highway 1,” according to citations in the resolution backing the council’s position against the condo project.

The council also determined the scale and density of the proposal would be inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood, the complex would negatively affect traffic in the area and degrade streets maintained by the city, the development could damage the historic buildings, and significant Monterey pine and coast live oak trees would have to be removed.

Representing Carmel Hospital Development Co., LLC, Widewaters Group development manager Kevin Kane submitted a letter pleading with the council to delay taking any action until a revised EIR is released at the end of the month. He said comments gathered before the review period for the original EIR closed on June 8, 2009, prompted the county and CEQA consultants to request more information for their evaluation.

“Much time and many resources were expended to comply with the county’s requests, and a lot of new information was uncovered in the process,” he said. “This new information will be incorporated into the EIR and should be taken into consideration before any objective review and determination can be justifiably made on this project.”

He said the council and city residents “would be better served if it [the city council] allowed the CEQA process to fully vet all of the issues before it reaches a conclusion.”

Resident Mark Bayne countered that the plans remain the same, regardless of the new EIR.

“We don’t expect any substantial changes to be released changing the nature of the project in the revised EIR,” he said. “They are going to be minor changes addressing issues we brought up in the first place. It’s going to still be a large condo project.”

Before it can be realized, the condo plan will have to be considered by the Monterey County Planning Commission and approved by the county board of supervisors. While the city council’s vote this week is non-binding on the county, it does carry extra weight because of the project’s proximity to the Carmel city limits.