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Residents file appeals to time extension for Colby Circle

Despite the architectural commission’s approval of an extension, the fight over the proposed Colby Circle development is not over.

Three appeals have been lodged against the controversial central Claremont development, two weeks after the commission narrowly voted to extend the project’s approvals for another two years.

Suzanne Christian, Irene Meadows and Moody T. Law are the appellants. Mr. Law and Ms. Meadows live on Oxford Drive, directly west of the proposed 96-unit condo development, and Ms. Christian owns a rental property in the Griswold townhomes north of the Colby site.

A fourth resident attempted to file an appeal but narrowly missed the Monday, August 4 deadline. The 10-day appeal process began Wednesday, July 24, the day of the architectural commission meeting, which made the closing date Saturday, August 3. With the city closed on Fridays, this brought actual days to appeal down to five business days, creating some confusion with residents.

The city council will hear the appeals when they come back from recess next month, most likely during the September 10 meeting, city spokesperson Bevin Handel said.

The development, which is proposed for both sides of Colby Circle just west of Indian Hill Boulevard, is seen as the final piece of the Old School House revitalization project. The designs were initially approved in 2007, and have been extended five times.

Intracorp Homes, which is purchasing the property from Claremont Star LP, submitted the extension request and has claimed they need more time to obtain approvals of design changes, prepare construction plans, secure financing and obtain permits.

The city has also said that the 2008 recession and the required construction of a 280-space parking garage were further reasons why the commission should approve the extension.

After putting off the decision in April for more information, the commission voted 4-3 to approve the extension on July 24.

Ms. Handel said if the commission voted against the extension, the architectural plans and the conditions of approval would have expired. The zoning and density of the project would remain unchanged.

The Law family has been at the forefront in opposition to the development for months. Their family home, in which they have lived since 1970, directly abuts the west end of the project, and they have claimed the units would have a clear view into their back yard.

Mr. Law’s appeal states numerous reasons to deny the extension, including an “outdated and incompatible design,” and that the plan fails to take into consideration the neighborhood west of the project area. The appeal claims the scale of the project and inadequate setbacks “would adversely impact adjacent homeowners, including Mr. Law.”

“We urge the city council to grant this appeal and deny any further extension of the existing architectural and site plan for the Colby Circle Townhomes,” the appeal reads. “This will allow for a fresh consideration of a revised plan that is capable of meeting the city’s design review criteria.”

Mr. Law’s appeal further claims the project’s mitigated negative declaration (MND), a document similar to an environmental impact report, incorrectly classified the westerly neighbors as “professional offices and commercial uses.”

Amy Minteer, of Chatten-Brown, Carstens & Minteer, submitted the 71-page appeal on behalf of Mr. Law. Ms. Minteer is no stranger to contentious Claremont developments—she represented Citizens to Save College Avenue in their suit against the city and Pomona College over the construction of the Pomona College Museum of Art (now called The Benton). That suit was settled in 2017, and the museum has since been built.

Ms. Meadows, another Oxford Avenue resident, claims in her appeal that the commission “seemed to believe that if they approved the extension, the developers would act in good faith and work with the residents in order to address their concerns.”

“However, approving the extension does not guarantee they will act in good faith,” Ms. Meadows added. She also voiced concerns about water runoff, the elimination of privacy for Oxford Avenue residents, increased traffic and pedestrian danger and parking issues in her appeal.

In her appeal to the city council, Ms. Christian wrote “the decision you make today can cause a financial legacy of hurt to the city, the residents and visitors of Claremont.”

She cited increased congestion, a flawed project design with “too many units, too close together,” and an invasion of privacy among her many concerns. The economic impact of the project, she claimed, would have negative consequences for the city.

Griswold’s townhome resident Katherine Hauser Rubel shares Ms. Christian’s concerns.

“We need an EIR, with a traffic study and a reevaluation of the current area, not a 12 year old plan,”?Ms. Rubel said. “Please, city of Claremont, listen to the neighbors and do the responsible thing.”

In the conclusion of her appeal to the city council, Ms. Christian said, “Do not let this be your legacy!”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

[Ed. note: This article was updated to note that Ms. Christian owns a rental property in the Griswold townhomes and does not live there.]