The nonprofit Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma Valley is facing neighborhood opposition over its plans to sell land after it gets approvals needed to develop it into a housing subdivision.
A spokesman for the Catholic-run facility characterized the project, which involves 57 acres the center owns on its campus west of Arnold Drive, as a benevolent fund-raising effort aimed at helping more troubled boys.
"We're not in the real estate business, that's for sure," said Kris Van Giesen, the center's chief community relations officer. "Our goal from the beginning has been to figure out how to bring 12 more boys to our campus."
But getting the project approved will require the center to obtain several land use changes, including an amendment to the county's general plan, and to overcome neighborhood resistance.
Those plans call for subdividing the 57-acres into seven lots of four to 11 acres each. Each parcel would be served by private septic systems and wells, or by the Valley of the Moon Water District.
The main point of contention is the proposed access to the subdivision from Carriger Road. Critics say increased traffic on the narrow two-lane road will present hazards for pedestrians and ruin the area's rural character.
They also raise concerns about the impact of development on groundwater supplies and the environment. The property includes a creek and a scattering of oak trees.
Nearly 30 neighbors so far have submitted letters to the county in opposition to the project. Carriger Road resident Stephen Williamson was among them, stating in his letter that he supports Hanna's mission but not changes that could impact the road.
"To think that this road will be further denigrated with increased traffic is saddening," he wrote.
Most correspondents suggested that access to the subdivision should be from Arnold Drive. But that plan is opposed by the county public works department, which currently is installing a traffic roundabout near the Hannah Boys Center main entrance.
"They don't want another drive-way punched in there," said Karin Theriault, a county planner who is overseeing the project.
The other option proposed by neighbors is to provide access to the new parcels via the main entrance of the Hanna Boys Center and install a new driveway that would skirt along the edge of a creek at the southern portion of one of the proposed lots.
But Theriault said that option, which has yet to be studied, may have negative environmental impacts on the creek .
The Hanna Boys Center opened in 1949 to serve troubled boys, who are referred to the facility through juvenile court authorities, Catholic parishes, school counselors and Hanna alumni. Currently, upwards of 120 boys live, work and attend school at the 170-acre foothill campus on Arnold Drive.
The center operates under the umbrella of the Santa Rosa Diocese but does not receive funding from the Catholic church, Van Giesen said. He said in these tough economic times, all nonprofits are having to think outside the box to raise money, hence the center's plans for selling the property after it has been approved for development.
He said the center understands the concerns about increased traffic on Carriger, which he called a "beautiful road."
But he said some of the critics have been spreading misinformation and overstating the project's scope.