MARTINEZ -- With few places left in town to build housing, city leaders are pushing a developer to tweak a proposed townhome development so it fits an underutilized parcel on Muir Station Road.
"What I'm looking for is something of high quality, something that's going to be an asset to the city and to minimize the effects on the neighborhood surrounding it," Mayor Rob Schroder said.
Discovery Homes originally planned to build 80 three-story townhouses ranging from 1,431 to 1,930 square feet, and two 3,400-square-foot single-family houses on a nearly 7-acre lot on Muir Station Road near the Nob Hill shopping center. Discovery Homes is a branch of the Concord-based Seeno family home building empire.
The city has been working closely with Discovery to address neighbors' and council members' concerns. The company is now considering eliminating the two single-family houses, pushing some of the townhouse buildings away from the perimeter of the property and reconfiguring the main roadway through the development, according to Phil Vince, Martinez city manager.
A community meeting where residents can review the latest plans is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 8 at City Hall.
"We're obviously not going to win over everybody, but I think we can show them that it's an amenable project that's going to work within the neighborhood," Vince said.
The project has met with fierce opposition from nearby homeowners who say the development will add too much traffic. Residents of Donaleen Court say the project would compromise their privacy because the townhomes would overlook their backyards.
In addition to those objections, during the public hearing last month residents said the development is too big for the site, criticized the plan to convert two acres of open space to residential, and raised concerns about stormwater runoff from the site into nearby Alhambra Creek.
The Laurel Knolls project has been in development for several years, and Discovery Homes has appeared before the Design Review Committee and the Planning Commission. The City Council has reviewed the project three times and is scheduled to consider it again July 24.
Citing the need for new housing in Martinez, in March council members asked Discovery Homes to address a list of issues, including the height and placement of the buildings, pedestrian access to the site, privacy and landscaping.
In response, the developer reduced the number of units to 73 and converted two buildings to two stories, and agreed to install a phased traffic signal at the intersection of Muir Station Road and Center Avenue to regulate vehicle flow.
The site plan for the project is constrained by the topography, and Discovery Homes contends it would cost millions of dollars to grade the property.
Originally, Discovery Homes proposed building a three- to four-foot-wide asphalt pathway along Muir Station Road from the development to Alhambra Way in lieu of a concrete sidewalk. However, the company now believes there is enough right of way to put in a traditional sidewalk.
Schroder said the city must provide a range of housing types to attract young people and seniors.
"If we want to have our children living where they grew up, it doesn't necessarily mean they want to live in a single-family detached home," he said.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.