Saturday, September 13, 2008

Two plans for Concord naval station -- only one will sail

CONCORD — And then there were two.

After a year of workshops, a citizens committee — with help from the meeting-going public — has whittled seven land-use proposals for the mothballed Concord Naval Weapons Station down to a couple.

One proposal concentrates on clustered villages throughout the 5,028-acre site, and the other focuses on conservation and open space.

The options will be discussed at a workshop Saturday morning at the Concord Senior Center. The Community Advisory Committee will recommend a plan to the City Council this fall.

This is the largest land use project the region has ever seen — adding to the city's size by one-third — and the two plans suggest how many houses (ranging between 10,000 and 11,900) should be built on the former military base, plus how much retail and parkland is desired. The proposals, with their tighter ranges, represent the largest movement on the project since the original seven proposals came out last October.

Both proposals include a tournament-level sports complex, a university/education center and different types of parks. The plans' differences are in where development occurs, what transit options are offered and the number of acres of designated as parks versus acres of undeveloped open space.

The plans also concentrate on developing around the North Concord BART station, and include a range of 60 to 73 percent open space.

"People should Advertisementcome on Saturday to get information on what's in (the plans)," said reuse project director Mike Wright. "We're not making a choice. We're not voting. This is not the end of the process. But it is a chance for informal small groups to ask questions and get answers."

At least one community group is frustrated.

The Concord Naval Weapons Station Neighborhood Alliance has, from the beginning, asked for 80 percent open space, as have groups such as Save Mt. Diablo and Greenbelt Alliance.

"We're still asking for 80 percent," said Kathy Gleason, of the neighborhood alliance. "That includes open space, active and passive parks, sports fields — you name it.

"At the last meeting, the CAC was talking about the plans and we piped up and said, 'Wait a minute, you're proposing all these homes — we're back where we were in 2006,'" Gleason said, of discussions in August.

She was referring to a general plan update Concord leaders embarked on two years ago that included development-heavy plans for the base made without consulting the public through wide-ranging workshops. The city admitted back then that it should do more outreach, and scrapped those plans.

"Who would you prefer to have as a neighbor — all these houses or a great regional park?" Gleason added.

However, city leaders have said in the past they worry about designating too much open space — the development has to be self-sustaining, so that it doesn't become a burden on the rest of the city. Council members have said they worry about a great park being able to pay for itself.

After hearing the matter in the fall, the City Council will settle on one land use plan — a "preferred plan" — that it will forward to the Navy. Meanwhile, the plan will undergo an intensive environmental review.

The Navy is pushing the city to have a plan in place by Sept. 20, but City Council members have said that will not happen. The community needs more time to reach a consensus, they said. Mayor Bill Shinn said that consensus should be reached around January.

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