SW Plan takes first step toward growth

By Reggie Ellis

Exeter's next large development took the next step last week when the Exeter Planning Commission approved the first subdivision southwest of Visalia Road and Belmont.

The development, called The Grove, is a 68.75-acre subdivision that will include 242 homes and a 3.6-acre park being proposed by Contour Development. The project will also include two round-abouts where Jacobs Boulevard intersects two new streets; the first leg of the walk/bike path along Belmont Road over Locust Grove Ditch; and landscaped alleys running behind the homes.

The Grove is the first development approved by the commission in the city's Southwest Specific Plan. The plan outlines growth policies to develop about 1,300 homes on 320 acres on the city's southwest side over the next 20 years. The area is bordered by Visalia Road to the north, Glaze Avenue to the south, Belmont Road to the east and the future extension of Elberta Avenue to the west.

The controversial plan was recommended by a citizens committee that met once a month for a year to prepare the document for approval by the council. Residents living in the rural area opposed the plan's affect on their quality of life and groundwater levels and urban sprawl in Exeter.

During the more than two-hour public hearing, several property owners within the Southwest Specific Plan did have concerns about the project, including living next to apartments, new roads, traffic congestion and groundwater levels.

Dr. Anne Hickey, who lives on South Elberta Avenue on the west edge of a new boulevard proposed in the project, said she wanted to know if she would be responsible for the cost of building the new road. Collins said Exeter's protocol is to require the property owner who develops first to build two-thirds of the street, to accommodate two-way traffic. Hickey also suggested that some of the planned &#8220high-density” housing be set aside as high-end senior housing.

Jim Stewart, who lives on West Chestnut, asked if the bridge at Chestnut and Belmont would be widened to accommodate increased traffic and to make it easier to make a left turn onto Belmont. Collins said that the intersection would look completely different but that the streets would be somewhat narrower than older city streets to slow down traffic entering a residential area, such as Glenwood Estates and Park Place subdivisions. Collins also said there will be no parking along the west side of Belmont between Visalia Road and Glaze Avenue.

Aron Margosian, who lives on Cornucopia Road, was concerned with the city drilling new wells on the west side of town. He said he had drilled three wells on his property, two that produced well and one that didn't.

&#8220I am concerned with where the city is planning the wells,” he said.

Commissioner Joe Stewart said that water wells drilled on the west side of Exeter produce much better than the ones on the east side.

Fred Smith, who also lives in the area, said he was concerned with traffic backing up on Belmont Road to make a left turn into the new subdivision. He suggested the city require the developer to complete Jacobs Boulevard, giving traffic an alternative route to get from Firebaugh Avenue to Visalia Road.

Dave Storer, who represented Contour Development, said he wouldn't mind putting the road through to offer an emergency access to his construction sites. Storer also offered to have the city review the project every six months. The only other change was extending the city's urban development boundary to the 5-year phase line in the Southwest plan instead of extending to the 10-year phase line.

The approval of the project means that the commission is recommending that the City Council approve the project. The City Council could also deny the project and send it back to the planning commission. As of press time, the City Council had not set a public hearing date for the project. For more information, call City Hall at 592-3710.

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