She also disputed the ecological significance of the site, telling the commission that the wildlife on the site mainly consists of mosquitoes and rodents. She also said the only limestone on the property was brought there by a previous owner, and the development team has archaeologist Bob Carr on retainer should something arise
Tapanes Llahues sees the whole issue as rather simple, straightforward legal matter. She cited case law to the commission to explain that the decision to grant or deny a waiver of plat is a “purely ministerial or administrative function,” and that “a local agency may only deny a plat if the agency demonstrates that the application did not meet the objective legal requirements for approval.”
In essence, she is saying there is little room for judgment or discretion on the part of the commission.
Tapanes Llahues noted city planning staff had opined that the applications did meet the requirements and recommended approval of the waivers.
Carlos Tosca, one of the principals behind the project, said he thinks the opposition doesn’t “really understand what’s occurring.” He said the current zoning would allow for 15 lots, though the need for septic tanks for the houses lowers that number to eight or nine. Their two applications ask for a combined seven lots.
Tosca’s company paid $1.2 million for the land in December, according to county records.
Tosca thinks the neighbors will be happy once they see quality of the design and construction after the homes are built.
However, he said he thinks the opposition is trying to infringe on his private property rights.
“It’s kind of being hijacked by a mob mentality,” Tosca said.
“I certainly wouldn’t consider us a mob,” Pellicane said. “This is a group of educated people, and we’re trying to preserve one last little piece of green space in an area that’s been totally paved over.”
One of the newer arguments that has come up in opposition to the waiver of plat is that the proposed lots do not conform with the rest of the neighborhood because the frontage is too small, making the lots too narrow. Several of the lots have 75-foot frontages. Pellicane thinks five or six homes would be more appropriate.
“We’re not trying to prevent him from getting his worth out of the property. We’re just trying to make sure it’s platted properly,” Pellicane said.
Pellicane believes there is a mutually beneficial solution to the whole problem, and is currently trying to find backing from an outside organization to try to purchase the property to preserve it.
“What he’s going to destroy is irreplaceable,” Pellicane said. “You can’t recreate an ecosystem.”
“If they want to buy the land, then we’ll consider selling it,” Tosca said. So far, he hasn’t received any offers.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the government must pay fair market value if it takes private property for a park. In addition, the government can’t impose regulations that deprive the property of all value — unless the government pays for it..
If the project is approved by the city, the county would have to sign off on final approval of the waiver of plat. The developer will also need to go through a permitting process before he can start building, including obtaining permits to remove the trees on the site.