Last night (7/18/23) the Vacaville Planning Commission voted unanimously (one commissioner recused himself) to approve the latest round of amendments to the second phase of the North Village master-planned development which MIGHT one day include a new school.
The original plan for the North Village community, which stretches from Vaca Valley Parkway on its south to Midway Road on its north, was approved in 1995. The development included two area plans (segments of development) and a combined total of 2,499 housing units.
The original plan for the first development area included an 11-acre lot for a new elementary school. The lot would be made available to the Vacaville Unified School District. In 2005, density restrictions from the development’s proximity to the Nut Tree Airport caused the 11-acre school site to be moved to the second area of development.
A majority of Area Plan #1 has been built and adjustments to the second have bounced back and forth between the developer, the Planning Commission and City Council for almost a year. Still included in the plan are areas of open space, a neighborhood park and a dog park to be built by the developer.
Changes Requested by City Council
In September 2022, the Planning Commission approved a plan from the developer, Discovery Builders, and the Vacaville City Council sent it back to the Commission in October 2022. In December 2022, the developer satisfied some requests from Council, but the plan was again returned with evaluation requested in the following four areas:
The Apartments Will Be Built Sooner Now
At last night’s meeting, a revised plan from the developer was presented to the Planning Commission by city staff. Most notably, the plan moves the proposed elementary school site north and moves the proposed apartments south. Since construction will occur from south to north, this expedites construction of the apartments.
No definitive timeline on the apartment construction was provided. Staff clarified the apartments would be “market-rate” apartments.
A Twenty Year Extension
The revised plan provides a 20-year extension to the development agreement term, moving it from 2025 to 2045. This extension was included in the project proposal passed last year. In public comment, the length of this extension was criticized by a handful of nearby residents.
Commissioner John Wilkerson pointed out the project equates to about 70 housing units per year if spread over the 20 years.
More Housing Units OR a New Elementary School
In addition to moving the location of the future school, the plan authorizes the developer to build 100 additional housing units on the school site – if the Vacaville Unified School District declines to build the school.
Commissioner Ralph Lightfoot asked if there was a timeline in which the school district needed to commit to opening the school. Doug Chen of Discovery Builders answered that once the plan was approved, the school district had the option to assume the land until it declined to do so.
The 100 additional units of housing would only be added if the school district declined to accept the property. However, the developer pointed out the school district could trade the builder for another proposed school site. In which case, the school would not be built in North Village and the additional 100 units of housing would move forward.
Commissioner Michael Fortney, who disclosed he has had conversations with the developer, praised the developer’s plan, addressing Doug Chen of North Village Development with the following:
“It’s refreshing to hear comments from the public that you understand where and who’s in charge of building that school. And I think a lot of us here will champion you when that time comes outside of this dais to another one.”
Over a dozen members of the public were in attendance for the meeting. Several spoke on the plan and the theme was overwhelming support for the building of a school. Several residents were concerned with adding additional housing units in the area beyond what was originally planned.
Brandon Kline, Chair of the Planning Commission, recused himself from voting on the issue but spoke as a resident of North Village. He expressed a need to hasten the building of affordable housing and was critical of the twenty-year timeline extension.
Kline stated “If people are going to get affordable housing, they don’t need it in twenty years, they need it right now.” He went on to express concerns about the school being an optional build, stating:
“I think the option is problematic because if you want the school built, but you have this back door to building more units if the school is not built, I don’t see that as putting the schools first as a priority.”
The revised plan will return to the City Council for a vote of approval. You can watch the full commission meeting and read the staff report on the City of Vacaville website.
One More Thing… Parks
The plan calls for a dog park and “turn key” neighborhood park in the second North Village development area. In response to complaints about how long it took the city to build the first neighborhood park in North Village, a deal was struck between the City and developer. Discovery Builders will build the park in exchange for a partial return of impact fees which are levied by the City for new construction.
Doug Chen of Discovery Builders explained the traditional process is for the city to charge impact fees to the developer and use those fees to build a park. In the final agreement, the City will return impact fees allocated to the park and Discovery Builders will design and construct the park with $1,000,000 in enhancements above the returned impact fees.
This is in addition to the design and construction of a separate dog park which will be provided by the developer.
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