Setback for Templeton housing plan

North County working-class people looking to buy a house they can afford took a temporary hit this week when the county Board of Supervisors delayed a project in Templeton that could create more than 100 homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range.

The proposal by Will Tucker and Templeton Properties calls for 108 houses on 17 acres at 221 N. Main St., the site of a livestock auction yard.

At least one supervisor, Bruce Gibson, said there should be more homes on the property, while many Templeton residents say there will be too many.

Gibson and others also raised questions about possible flooding, as well as traffic.

The 21⁄2-hour afternoon hearing Tuesday came on the same day supervisors spent part of their morning deploring a shortage of affordable and low-income housing in the county.

The Templeton housing proposal went before the Board of Supervisors in February. Supervisors tentatively approved it, but told the developer to redistribute park space throughout the project.The developer did that, according to county planners.

But on Tuesday, Gibson and other supervisors brought up the density issue again, noting that the developer could build up to 26 units per acre under county rules, but instead was proposing just seven.

Seven units per acre is “not dense development,” Gibson said.

Spokesmen for the developer said they thought the density question had been settled in February.Supervisor Frank Mecham said the number of units being proposed by Templeton Properties was causing the “biggest outcry” in the community. “People don’t want more density,” Mecham said.

“They’re opposed to 107 units, period,” Supervisor Adam Hill said. He added that his e-mails on the question include comments from people who say they don’t want those who can afford to buy $200,000 to $300,000 homes in their community.

He called those comments “sad,” adding, “If they’re good enough to work here, they’re good enough to live here.”

Hill said the county should not dictate the number of housing units in a rigid, inflexible way. “You have to consider the neighborhood and community compatibility,” he said.

North County Watch, a slow-growth group, also protested the plan — chiefly because, representatives said, environmental impacts, including flooding, are not fully known. They suggested that the project might need a full environmental impact report.

Environmental impact reports are thorough analyses of proposals that take months to complete and can cost in the six-figure range. Developers have said EIRs can threaten financing and even kill a project.

Templeton Properties and county planners said flooding concerns had been addressed in the design. “This project has been looked at very thoroughly,” said Glenn Marshall of the county Department of Public Works.

Nonetheless, the board put off a final decision until Jan. 25 so Templeton Properties can review questions surrounding possible flooding.

Should it be built, the project would include 17 “four-packs” — four parcels sharing a common driveway — and 40 single-family units.

Even if it gains approval, the project still must go through the lengthy planning process, including an environmental review.