After six weeks of delays, the Planning Commission late Tuesday approved plans for the sprawling Holly-Seacliff housing project, striking a compromise between the developer and a school district feuding over terms of a planned elementary school in the area.
The commission unanimously approved plans for the remaining 569 acres of the 780-acre development on an old oil field in the north-central part of the city. The rest of the project was approved earlier by the commission and City Council.
Representatives from Pacific Coast Homes, the major landowner and developer, and the Huntington Beach City School District still must reach an agreement on where the new school will be built and how it will be paid for.
But officials from both sides said after the five-hour hearing that they were generally satisfied with the commission’s decision. Each side promised to continue to seek further concessions, however, when the City Council considers final approval of the development in December.
Since September, commissioners have twice postponed action on the development while the developer and school district attempted to work out differences on a school that the district says is necessary to accommodate students from the 4,400 new homes.
School district officials say the state-mandated fees that the developer is offering are not enough to buy the land and build a school on it. The developer’s most generous offer, which the district’s board rejected last week, would fall $750,000 short of the money needed for the new school, Supt. Duane Dishno said.
Representatives from Pacific Coast Homes, a development arm of the Huntington Beach Co., have offered to increase their original fees by 20% and have reduced their asking price for the school-site land. They say they can go no further and contend that the district--which has four closed school sites--has enough resources to build the new facility.
Both sides agreed that the plans approved by the commission include wording that will protect their respective interests. The commission was not charged with settling the school issue but only to assure that the developer pay adequate fees to compensate for the additional students that the project is expected to attract.
At the commission’s request, the compromise was hastily drawn up during the meeting by Michael Adams, the city’s community development director.
Adams’ legal wording approved by the commission states that before the first tract map for the development can be approved, the school issue must be settled, and any school built must meet the standards of the State Department of Education, the city and the Huntington Beach City School District. It also stipulates that the school district may recommend to the city whether it believes the developer has met the required guidelines, but it clearly states that the school board does not have final word on the matter.
“We still have some problems, because there is no assurance to the district that the mitigation will be taken care of,” said Marshall B. Krupp, a consultant representing the district on the issue. “The responsibility is back in the city’s hands, and it could overrule the recommendations of the district.”
Pacific Coast Homes representatives similarly had reservations about the commission’s decision.
“We’re not totally in agreement, but we certainly recognize that this is an issue that needs to be addressed,” said Tom Zanic, a spokesman for the developer. “We hope that the commission’s action sends a message (to the district) to re-look at our proposals.”