Tuesday, May 15, 2007 • Housing development draws fire from potential neighbors

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, May 15, 2007 edition of the Lassen County Times.

Sean Armstrong of Danco Communities explains how the new development will fit into the existing area, and how it will affect the surrounding homes. Community Development Director Bill Nebeker looks over the design specifics, while Steve Pezzullo listens intently.

Homeowners living near Riverside Drive and Grove Street got a chance to voice their concerns about a new housing development being planned near their residence at a community development meeting held at the Susanville City Hall on Tuesday, May 8.

The company looking to develop homes in the area is Danco Communities, a part of the Danco Group of companies that also include Danco Builders, Danco Cabinets, Danco Development, Danco Homes, Danco Property Management and Western Living Concepts. They are based out of Arcata, California.

The meeting had all the unique qualities inherent in any heavyweight title fight. Community Development Director Bill Nebeker was on hand, not only to provide necessary statistics but also as a sort of a facilitator/referee for the meeting. Al Robbins of Robbin’s House of Furniture also sat in on the meeting, due to the presence of the storage facilities he uses near the proposed area. Jim McCarthy of Gold Run Realty, the real estate company brokering the deal, was also there.

Neighbors to the proposed housing community were in attendance to voice their concerns about what the increase in housing near their homes would mean to them and the area.

“The thing is, it’s a quiet neighborhood down there,” said homeowner and potential neighbor Richard Bolanger. “Most everyone I know in that neck of the woods has to get up at dark-thirty, and we don’t want to have to deal with people who will partying late into the night.”

In the other corner, representing Danco was Development Project Manager Sean Armstrong, along with Lindsey Myers, in charge of acquisitions and public relations on the project.

Armstrong said he and Myers were used to marketing housing communities to rural areas, and that they have had to address similar issues in the past.

The pace of the conversation between the Danco representatives and the community members took a decided turn for the defensive when at one point, Armstrong told homeowner Norm Schwarz to allow him to respond before spouting off about the numerous issues he had with the project.

“You can’t realistically expect that the owners of this property are never going to put anything here and that you’ll always have a quiet neighborhood just because you’ve had it so far,” Armstrong said.

This exchange set the pace for the rest of the hour and a half meeting; with the residents voicing their concerns about everything they thought the project would bring to what they considered their part of Lassen County.

Most of the residents were visibly concerned with a number of increases. The increase in both foot traffic and vehicle traffic, the increase in ambient noise around their homes, the potential increase in crime from lower income housing projects, and the increase in the density of the population were among their chief concerns.

Others were concerned about the problems that could be caused by the construction process, specifically in regards to potential flooding that could occur from the widening of Riverside Road.

Armstrong gave as well as he received when hearing the complaints. For the most part, he simply listened, offering points where he could about how the community was actually a positive thing.

He explained because of the lack of middle to low-income rentable housing in Susanville, these homes were not only practical, yet necessary, and the point of this meeting was to help allow the project to ease into the community as smoothly as possible.

Towards the end of the meeting, the atmosphere improved from what Armstrong called “trying to solve all of Lassen County’s problems in one night,” into a more constructive question and answer format, with some helpful suggestions made by both sides. While nothing was actually resolved, the residents and the developers were able to part on what seemed like amiable terms.

Nebeker said Danco actually tried before to bring the housing community to the same plot of land, and the Susanville City Council rejected them because their plans for the developments were unorganized.

“Danco seems to be really dedicated to Susanville,” Nebeker said after the meeting. “They see a need, because we’ve had nothing in 15 years, and they’ve looked at all sorts of different properties, and all of them don’t have the services they need or they didn’t have the infrastructure.”

The next step in Danco’s process will be when they present their case before the planning commission on May 22.