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Clash brewing over Petaluma housing development

The plot is familiar: Large development proposed. Opposition organizes. Both sides hire lawyers.

That storyline is playing out again in Petaluma as Davidon Homes of Walnut Creek pursues the city's largest housing development in nearly a decade.

Planning commissioners and about 30 critics of the plan blasted the draft environmental impact report this week during its first public airing.

The City Council also will consider the draft EIR, possibly next month, with final review slated for late this year. Certification of the report by the City Council is the major hurdle for the project to move forward.

During a lengthy Planning Commission meeting Tuesday, it became clear that the Davidon project -- which was proposed a decade ago -- faces no easy path to approval.

Commissioners said the report was confusing and incomplete in several areas, including the examination of traffic, runoff into Kelly Creek and consistency with the city's hillside protection ordinance, which didn't exist when the project was first proposed.

At issue is the Davidon Homes proposal for as many as 93 houses on 60 acres at Windsor Drive and D Street, adjacent to Helen Putnam Regional Park. The subdivision is the largest housing project planned for Petaluma since the 274-home Quarry Heights.

In a 4?-hour hearing, the commission heard comments from about 30 members of the public on the report -- virtually all of whom raised concerns -- and agreed on several topics commissioners felt needed to be reevaluated in the final EIR.

Several commissioners said the number of scenarios with varying numbers of homes in different configurations made the report unclear.

The report included the original proposal for 93 homes that Davidon proposed in 2004. Davidon then proposed its own scaled-down alternative option of 66 homes, which also was included in the draft EIR, along with those with 48 and 28 homes. Removing lots to protect wildlife or preserve scenic views would reduce the numbers further.

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