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Two companies stake out rebuilding projects in Larkfield as county rolls out sewer connections

Special Coverage

This story is part of a monthly series in 2018 chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County's four fire zones: Coffey Park, Fountaingrove, the greater Mark West area and Sonoma Valley. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage

here.

A second mass rebuild project is taking shape in Larkfield as recovery picks up steam in the unincorporated community north of Santa Rosa where hundreds of homes were destroyed in the wildfires seven months ago.

Fairfield-based Silvermark Construction Services is rebuilding eight burned properties in the area, including several on Willow Green Place off Old Redwood Highway. The company already has walls up for one home and expects construction to be finished in early June, weather permitting.

After that, Silvermark anticipates completing one home each week.

“That’s kind of our M.O.,” said David Hosking, the company’s vice president of operations. “We put everything together, we get organized in front of it … We’re pretty good at making stuff happen fairly fast.”

So far, Silvermark is only working on properties sold by fire victims who didn’t want to rebuild, but the company remains open to working with property owners that do plan to stay, Hosking said. Silvermark is rebuilding its homes within the same footprint they had before, complete with some modern upgrades like taller doors, he said.

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Stonefield offers upgraded plans

In the nearby Larkfield Estates and Mark West Estates, two subdivisions scorched by the October firestorm, a Southern California builder is also moving forward with its plans to rebuild numerous homes.

Orange County-based Stonefield Co., which has completed three prior group rebuilds in other fire-devastated neighborhoods in the state, is on track to construct 77 homes in Mark West Estates and 14 in Larkfield Estates. The company hopes to have county building permits secured by the end of May, allowing it to break ground in the first week of June. The first homeowners could move in starting in December if the weather holds up, said Robert Pack, Stonefield’s president.

Larkfield Estates will take longer - the company began work on the Mark West Estates rebuild first - but Stonefield hopes to start construction there in August, Pack said.

In Mark West Estates, Stonefield is modernizing the subdivision’s original floor plans, designing “great room” layouts where spaces open up into each other more than traditional rooms divided by walls.

“We didn’t use the old plans and just update them to code requirements,” Pack said. “We said, you guys have lost enough. We want to try to modernize them to what the new living conditions and standards are today.”

Building on its popularity with Larkfield homeowners, Stonefield is planning an open house for Coffey Park residents May 12 and 13 to discuss the possibility of a group rebuild in that neighborhood.

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‘I’m just excited that we have walls’

Sonoma County has issued 31 rebuilding permits for single-family homes and second units in the greater Mark West Springs area, according to county planning data. The fire destroyed nearly 740 homes in the unincorporated area.

One of the Larkfield residents moving fastest with rebuilding is Jim Dickey, a local land surveyor who got his county building permit in mid-February. Workers poured the foundation for Dickey’s Dorchester Drive home in March, and they’ve now erected walls for the first floor. On Thursday they were in the process of framing the second story where two bedrooms will be located.

“I’m just excited that we have walls,” Dickey said. “If it takes two years, I don’t care. At this point, we got walls, and it’s pretty cool to walk through the house and see how things are moving forward.”

Among all unincorporated areas, the county has issued 77 rebuilding permits for single-?family homes and eight permits for accessory dwelling units, planning data shows.

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Sewer hookups optional

Also making progress is a plan from county officials to extend sewer service into the Larkfield Estates area. Supervisor James Gore, who represents the neighborhood, hosted a community meeting in early April to discuss the plan with local residents, some of whom resisted the proposal because they wanted to stay on septic and were worried about potential development changes sewer service would enable.

The Sonoma County Water Agency’s financing plan for those who want sewer includes a one-time connection fee of $12,000, with 20-year loans offered at 2 percent interest to fire victims. Annual loan payments would be about $750 starting in 2020.

Additionally, the system is estimated to cost each parcel about $45,000 to build. Annual loan payments would be about $2,750 but property owners wouldn’t have to pay until 2030 and no interest would accrue until then, according to the Water Agency.

Michelle Gillies, who lost her Brighton Court home and doesn’t want sewer, said she remains concerned about potential overdevelopment of the neighborhood. But she’s pleased her property will not be required to connect to sewer even if she decides to sell someday.

“It’s kind of a fight that I’ve given up on at this point,” Gillies said. “People can go ahead and do what they want, but they’re not putting something on me.”

Mike Thompson, an assistant general manager at the Water Agency, said the voluntary aspect of the sewer project appears to have assuaged much of the concern from property owners. He estimated at least 50 owners are ready to connect immediately, and over the next several decades he expects the “vast majority” of properties in the area to connect to sewer service.

The sewer proposal is expected to come before county supervisors, who also serve as Water Agency directors, on May 22. Formal adoption of the financing plan could happen in July or August, Thompson said.

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.

Special Coverage

This story is part of a monthly series in 2018 chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County's four fire zones: Coffey Park, Fountaingrove, the greater Mark West area and Sonoma Valley. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage

here.

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