LAFAYETTE -- Despite a new hydrology report that pleased some city council members, permit approvals for a 9,638-square-foot home generated significant debate at a recent council meeting.

Over two hours of the five-hour meeting June 23 were devoted to council discussion and public comment on the single-family residence Steven and Linda Wight have been trying to get approval since 2007 to build on 13 hillside acres off Monticello Road.

Ultimately, unaddressed findings for approval of Phase II and ongoing concerns about the project's construction phase caused the council to continue the matter to the July 28 city council meeting.

But before that decision was made, the Wights and their representatives, people from nearby neighborhood associations and others weighed in with firmly entrenched, opposing positions.

The history

In 2007, the Wights submitted a proposal for a two-story, 5,900-square-foot home. Public comments and suggestions from the council and the city's Planning and Design Review Commissions resulted in revisions that included moving the location of the home and making architectural changes to minimize its visibility. The Lafayette family submitted revised plans in 2008 and received Phase I approval. In 2011, they presented new plans by a new architect for a home with 8,325 square feet designated as living space and 2,063 square feet devoted to garage space -- nearly double the original overall size. Negative response from the public and questions from the city council centered on visibility, closeness to a 10-inch natural gas line, off-haul soil, ridgelines development, an outdoor kitchen, "public nuisance" and water drainage.


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After several meetings and review sessions, the city council ultimately overturned the Planning Commission's recommended denial of the applications and voted to approve Phase I in September 2012. A Phase II application filed in May 2013 was again the subject of multiple meetings and approval was given to extend Phase I to allow for environmental and other studies to be completed. After considerable public comment, commission reviews and much documentary evidence regarding public health and other impacts of the project, the council this past May 12 denied approval of Phase II on a 5-0 vote, and directed the Wights to address their findings for denial by June 23.

The June 23 meeting

Last week, council members said flooding, light spilling onto a nearby hillside and the impact of construction remained primary concerns.

Presentations from the Wights and their lawyer, David Bowie, emphasized that the home had not changed in footprint or overall design since council approved Phase I in 2012. Bowie said the level of windows on the west side of the property were below the roofline and therefore would not spill light onto the hillside. A completed hydrology report included in the updated application showed "no problems" with flooding and erosion. "I frankly don't see how you cannot make the same findings as you did with Phase One," Bowie said.

The Wights' hydrology report compared drainage at the end of Monticello to a wheel with spokes, and said water from the Wights' home would flow along a number of tributaries but wouldn't contribute to flooding on Monticello Road.

But neighbors George Bishop and Jessica Oxenburgh disagreed. Bishop objected to water he said would "dump onto" his property and called the hydrology report "opaque." Oxenburgh said the 16 findings by the council had not been addressed and said, "No changes made, means finding cannot be made."

Happy Valley Improvement Association's Peter Clark said the homeowners he represented typically support homebuilders but are opposed to the Wights' project.

"The difference between this and other projects that breezed through approval is that (other projects) followed the law," Clark told the council.

Both the Wights' representatives and neighbors accused each other of "rudeness" and other communication problems during the process.

And while satisfied with the hydrology report, council members remain concerned with other issues, including off-haul soil, staging complications, light dispersion from upper level windows, doubts about applicants' proposed "one-at-a-time" rule for trucks on Monticello Road and the project not meeting city design guidelines or construction guidelines, especially given the project's large size.

Mayor Don Tatzin "rejected outright" Bowie's suggestion that Phase I approval meant Phase II should be approved.

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