Church's plans take a step back

May 08, 2003 12:00 am

By ERIN MAYES

A discrepancy in square-footage calculations means Christian Heights Assembly of God will have to go before the Tuolumne County Planning Commission a second time with plans for senior housing.

The church also didn't come with an environmental impact report, which county officials told them not to prepare.

The size of the senior condos in the church's plans has never changed — they're about 1,400 square feet each. However, a staff-generated Community Development Department report somehow has them ranging from 1,880 to 2,100 square feet.

CDD Director Bev Shane said last night she didn't know why the numbers differ.

But the end result is that the church's plans got a thumbs-down from the commission last night.

The church sits on a 30.2-acre lot on Joshua Way near Lambert Lake Road in Sonora. Church officials want to build the senior housing, as well as a 3,332-square-foot recreation building and a 1,500-square-foot activity center on their land.

But the CDD said the plans are incompatible with the neighborhood, and planning commissioners were concerned about the conflicting square-footage calculations and the lack of an EIR.

"I'm certainly for private property rights, I'm for senior housing and I'm for churches," Commissioner Ty Wivell said. "But this development agreement is incomplete.

"Any other project of this size, any place else ... we would have to deny it because of the lack of environmental information."

But Daryl Sarina, business administrator for the church, said he doesn't understand.

"We did exactly what we were told to do," he said.

The CDD told the church to present its application without an EIR because planners said it was better not to spend time and money on the report until the church knew it could get county officials' nod, Shane said. The CDD already planned to recommend against the application, she said, when it gave the church that advice.

The size of the condos is troubling to some neighbors in the nearby Lambert Lakes subdivision, who said last night that 1,880 to 2,100-square-foot condos sound too big for senior housing.

Church representatives agreed.

"We nowhere, ever, intended to build 2,200-square-foot houses," Sarina told the commission.

The 16 opponents who spoke last night are also concerned about traffic, which, they said, is already a problem. Many said large events put on by the church, such as its annual Fourth of July displays and summer concerts, now cause traffic jams.

The CDD report said no traffic study is required for the church's project, which it estimates would generate up to "7.4 vehicle trips per day," per home. It goes on to say, "The actual trip generation from residences occupied exclusively by senior citizens may be somewhat less than 7.4 trips per day."

The main reason the department has recommended the church's plans be denied is because it "is incompatible with the character of the surrounding community."

"The real issue here is that they're going to put in a much higher density," neighbor Ed Fernandez said. "We bought our lots thinking we were going live out in the country."

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