MORAGA -- Plans for 50 townhomes on a vacant lot in Moraga are raising eyebrows, even though no formal development application or designs for them yet exist.

Developers City Ventures, based in Southern California, is proposing two- and three-story townhomes on two-plus acres between a vacant building and a fire station on Moraga Way. Critics say placing townhomes near a noisy fire station is a bad idea.

Planning and design review commissioners will discuss the matter Monday at a special public meeting.

Moraga-Orinda Fire District trustees should look into whether nearby residences would be compatible with Station 41 and its training facilities under the town's general plan, said former governing board member Dick Olsen.

At a meeting in October, Olsen warned that noise from firefighting and rescue training activities would impact residents.

"It's just totally incompatible. You don't build housing cheek-by-jowl with a fire station, particularly with a combined fire station and training site," he said later.

District Attorney Steven Myers brought up similar issues four years ago in response to the town's environmental review of the Moraga Center Specific Plan. The plan calls for new retail, single-family homes and high-density senior, student and workforce housing in an area north of the Moraga shopping center. The fire station and proposed housing are both within the plan area.


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Myers had argued that resulting development would have a significant negative impact on fire and emergency services, and said the EIR did not include any mitigations for those impacts.

Olsen referenced Myers' letter in October and suggested the board investigate whether nearby residences would indeed be compatible with the fire station and training facilities under the general plan.

Planning director Shawna Brekke-Read said the planning commission will make a recommendation on the compatibility issue, and that it's up to town leaders to decide the project's fate.

"There are many circumstances of residences being constructed next to fire houses and there are ways to design a project so that the two uses can be compatible," she said.

Fire Chief Randy Bradley said developers have a right to build high-density housing in the area under the Moraga Center Specific Plan but that they need to understand the impacts of fire engines and other equipment. He said the developer had agreed to mitigate concerns.

Bradley also said there is currently no agreement to sell a portion of district land to developers but that there could be further negotiations after a final plan is hammered out with the town.