Mill Valley development squeaks through

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After months of going through city committees and boards, the planning unit development (PUD) application for the Enclave at Mill Valley development barely got through planning commission Monday night.
The commission voted 4-3 to accept the application after a lengthy discussion.
The original sketch plan came to the commission in March. The original PUD application was in June, when commission members expressed concern at what they saw as a lack of architectural diversity in the homes.
At Monday’s meeting Gary Smith, speaking for developer Ryan Homes, said they went to Ryan Homes’ corporate architect and got a new variation for the home.
“Structurally, the building didn’t change, but we changed the location of materials,” he said. “It took a lot of begging, it really did.”
He said there are now more color combinations potential residents can choose from for their home.
Smith said it had come to the point where if the commission asked for a another tabling, they’d simply have the commission vote and move on from there.
“I think at this point, we’re putting our best foot forward with the changes that we’ve made,” he said.
Commission member Alex Armitage said he was concerned at the look of the development from Route 31.
He referred to a request from the applicant to allow them to ignore a section of the city’s code requiring that buildings have, “visual interest that will be consistent with the community’s identity, character and scale.” The city code states building seen from 360 degrees must have a consistent look on all sides.
Armitage said the backs of the units have a “cookie-cutter” look, which makes a poor first impression for those entering the city. He also noted that city staff recommended the commission not allow the divergence from that code.
“I just don’t think that’s going to look great,” he said. “I think that is good to think about it as a gateway into town, and I’m really stuck on that.”
Commission Chair Tim Schacht agreed, saying that Route 31 is a “good thoroughfare” into the city.
“When it gets built, it’s going to be nice and new,” he said. “But that newness is going to wear off after a while.”
Smith said the landscaping around the development will help shield it from the road.
“You’re going to get glimpses of the back of the buildings, but it’s going to be a stark comparison,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty substantial buffer there.”
Schacht suggested removing all the homes from the plan that are up against Route 31 to mirror the homes on the neighboring Triple Crown Way, where the homes face the road.
“We don’t want to miss any opportunities,” Schacht said. “I understand this is a large change, but the commission all has an issue with the rear elevation not being up to an architectural standard.”
“We’ve pushed the builder about as far as we’re going to push them,” Smith said. “We really believe that this is going to make a great product.”
Commission member Virginia Golan said from her perspective, the city can’t be lazy with what it accepts. With the growth the city is seeing, the commission can afford to pick and choose which projects it allows in.
“I feel like we’re setting precedent almost here for future products in other areas,” she said.



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