The City Council recently voted on housing development projects by H.G. Fenton Company and Brookfield Residential. While these projects seem similar, there are critical differences in the impact they will have on the city’s infrastructure. Both projects were General Plan Amendments that changed the land-use designation to residential and added a similar number of units. I voted for the Fenton project, and against the Brookfield MU4 project. Here’s why:
Fenton Brings Infrastructure First. The Fenton project brings a much-anticipated infrastructure improvement – the completion of Discovery Road. While it’s true this road is necessary for access to the Fenton development, it will also serve a much wider community as it will help alleviate traffic congestion on several key arterial roads in the surrounding area. Fenton will complete the $16 million project a decade earlier than it would otherwise be built. This important new addition to our traffic circulation will be open before the first house is occupied. The Brookfield MU4 adds more houses without adding to our infrastructure or bringing meaningful benefits to the community.
Fenton Reduces Traffic Congestion. The extension of Discovery that comes with the Fenton project is expected to reduce daily car trips by 5,700 on Craven Road, by 2,500 on Twin Oaks Valley, and by 1,500 on the SR78 overpass. This will alleviate critical points of congestion, and offer an alternative east-west route to the heavily impacted San Marcos Blvd. Brookfield MU4 adds an estimated 1,500 daily trips on Twin Oaks Valley Road and brings new stoplights that will only increase travel times.
Fenton includes a new school site. The approvals for the Fenton project included a 4-acres school site, and Fenton agreed to grade the land, work with the surrounding landowners on making it a viable option. I agree with the residents that said it is only a partial site and a more definitive solution to our school capacity problems is needed. However, the selection and acquisition of a workable site is ultimately the School District’s decision. The Brookfield MU4 project brought new students without offering any school capacity solutions.
Fenton addresses increasing student generation rate. Fenton recognized that the project could generate more students than the current projection and agreed to increase its mitigation to the School District if the student generation rate goes up. Brookfield MU4 locked in its mitigation agreement at current generation rate, which the School District acknowledged are probably low.
The timing of the Fenton project is important. Without the approval of the Fenton project this year, the connection of Discovery Road would be delayed more than a decade and the cost could increase by millions of dollars. While it would have been preferable, as many residents pointed out, to wait to approve the project until the school capacity issues have been addressed, doing so would have meant missing the opportunity to add this important piece of infrastructure. There was nothing time sensitive about the Brookfield MU4 project, and there is no reason it could not have waited for progress to be made on our schools.
The Fenton project reduced its overall impact. The Fenton project, as approved, is less impactful than current zoning as well as previous iterations of the project. The current zoning included a hospital with a helipad, and previous versions of the project included as many as 750 multi-story residential units. The approved project, which includes up to 230 detached homes, is set farther away from and below the adjacent Discovery Meadows homes, and has less overall impact than previous proposals. Brookfield MU4 did not represent a net reduction of impact because the developers argued that the existing commercial zoning would never be built.
The residents who expressed their opposition to the Fenton project had valid concerns. The issues of school capacity and traffic congestion must be addressed. I voted for the Fenton project because I felt it contributed to the solutions to these problems, and brought a much-needed road that will reduce congestion and benefit the whole city.