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Planning Commission OKs Balour Drive subdivision

The Encinitas Planning Commission on Feb. 18 unanimously approved a nine-home subdivision, agreeing that the developer tweaked the project enough to reduce the impact on surrounding neighbors.

Developer Melia Homes originally planned to build nine two-story homes at 720 Balour Dr., a former greenhouse site. But in response to residents contending the project would loom over the existing neighborhood, the developer downsized the development to two single-story homes and seven two-story homes. Also, Melia Homes increased the buffers between houses and reduced the size of one of the home’s second story.

Planning Commissioners commended the developer for taking neighborhood and commission feedback into account.

“I’m very happy to see this developer working very hard to reflect what’s in the community,” Commission Chair Glenn O’Grady said. He later praised neighbors for doing their homework when seeking project revisions.

After numerous neighbors called for a smaller project, the commission in January voted 4-1 to require that Melia Homes explore ways to make the project less imposing. That included potentially paring down some of the homes’ second stories or the development sharing an access road with nearby Saint John Church, with the aim of providing more space between new homes and the neighborhood.

Michael Vairin with Melia Homes said the access road option is a non-starter, because a shared road would require a fence, conflicting with an easement. Instead, Melia Homes went back to the drawing board and lessened the development’s footprint so it would fit in better with the existing neighborhood, which is largely made up of one-story homes.

Kris Stewart, one of three public speakers, said she long opposed the project, yet has since warmed to it since two of the nine homes are now one story.

“I want to thank the Planning Commission for listening to us at your meeting last month,” Stewart said.

But resident Susan Yamagata said the development still falls short because there will be “seven massive two-story homes.”

In January, those opposed to the project said that four of the two-story homes next to the neighborhood should be downsized to one story in the name of privacy and community character.

Following the Feb. 18 meeting, Stewart in an email said she’s not aware of any neighborhood plans to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the Encinitas City Council. If an appeal isn’t filed by March 4, the project would have the green light.

Locals first spoke out against the subdivision two years ago when citywide opposition to “density bonus” projects took center stage.

California law lets developers build more housing on a parcel than city rules allow, in exchange for reserving at least one unit as low-income. Opponents of the developments argue they stuff too many homes onto parcels, while proponents say they provide critical affordable housing.

Under the law, the developer could have built as many as 11 units on the property, but opted for nine — eight market rate homes and one affordable unit.

The Encinitas City Council passed rules to restrict density bonus developments in 2014, but later reversed many of those changes as part of a settlement with the Building Industry Association of San Diego. The city is currently fighting another lawsuit over the matter.


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