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Commission rejects bid by developer

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The Commons, a proposed multi-use development on Claremont’s eastern edge, moved one step closer to rejection as the planning commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a staff resolution denying rezoning the property, as well as changes to the city’s general and specific plans.

Since the planning commission recommended denial, the project will not be brought to city council unless the applicant files an appeal, according to Public Information Officer Bevin Handel. The developer has a window of 10 days to file that appeal, however, because the tenth day is on a Friday, they have until the following Monday November 2 to file. 

The resolution identified six distinct negative issues related to the project including that it is not compatible with the Cable Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (CALUP), which does not allow for residential uses in the project area. The proposed housing density exceeds the guidelines established in the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook. Airport noise is a high nuisance factor for those living near Cable Airport, including future residents of The Commons and there is a potential for air pollution impacts. The risk to public health and safety due to aircraft accidents is minimal, however, the risk remains excessive. Finally, allowing a residential development on the property, which is zoned highway commercial, is incompatible with Claremont’s general plan.

During Tuesday’s meeting commissioners were united in their opposition to the project. Even though some liked specific parts of the plan, there was a general consensus that bullet point six on the staff report—that the project was incompatible with the city’s general plan—was the main objection to the project.

Planning commission chair Leigh Anne Jones described the property as “a very difficult parcel to work with” because it straddles the border between two counties and two cities, in addition to impacts resulting from the airport’s proximity.

Commissioner Tiena Johnson-Hall said that it is important to support projects that promote affordable housing, adding, however, that “this is the wrong project for the location.”

The development, which includes the construction of single-family homes, townhomes, flats and retail space, was also rejected by unanimous vote by the architectural commission back in July.

“Commissioners denied the proposal on the grounds that it was inconsistent with four specific criteria laid out in Claremont’s zoning section of the municipal code: general plan consistency, compatibility of form with surrounding development, internal consistency of design and environmental protections,” the COURIER reported on July 30.

Intense public disapproval of The Commons has plagued the project from the beginning, and Tuesday night was no exception, with just one person speaking in favor of the project among the roughly dozen speakers during public comment. Discontent about the project generally revolves around the risk of plane crashes, toxic exhaust and high noise levels.

The COURIER reported in June of 2019 that the developer, Clare Properties, has owned the parcel since 1984 and has made numerous attempts to develop it over the years including a Target store, home Depot and a new headquarters for Technip.

During the October 6 planning commission meeting a letter from the city of Upland’s Development Services Director Robert Dalquist was read into public comment.

Mr. Dalquist’s concerns include the final environmental impact report (FEIR) and the draft environmental impact report (DEIR).

“Substantively Upland believes that the FEIR still falls short to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the state of California guidelines for California Environmental Quality Act,” the letter read.

Mr. Dalquist also believes that the city of Claremont’s responses to Upland’s earlier questions were inadequate. “The responses to comments are, unfortunately, dismissive of many of these concerns and at points are even combative.”

In the letter, Mr. Dalquist objects to Claremont’s environmental impact reports focusing solely on the 6.5 acres located in the city of Claremont rather than the entire 9.5-acre project.

“Perhaps most significantly the FEIR still does not properly define the whole of the project as Upland explained in its comments of the DEIR the project has been impermissibly segmented for purposes of environmental review,” the letter read.

Mr. Dalquist’s concerns include some issues brought up by the commission including land use compatibility, public health and safety. It is unclear how the commission’s negative vote will affect Upland’s position.

The COURIER contacted Claremont’s Community Development Director Brad Johnson regarding Mr. Dalquist’s letter but had not received a response as of press time.

POLICE BLOTTER: Believe it or not, it was a slow week for Claremont crime, so we will be back next week with our local updates.  Be sure to check our website for more news. —PW

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