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Neighbors oppose Hanna Boys Center real estate deal

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.

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