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[whitespace] Monte Sereno tells developer to shrink his plan, save trees

Los Gatos--More than 120 Monte Sereno and Los Gatos residents signed a petition opposing a three-home subdivision on Winchester Boulevard. Those in opposition cited traffic and the removal of redwood trees as two key reasons for their stance.

The traffic concerns were disputed by reports from two traffic engineers, stating that the subdivision would have a "minimal impact" on traffic circulation in the area.

The redwood tree issue, however, was evidently compelling enough for the Monte Sereno City Council on July 17 to advise the applicants to change the proposal from a three-lot subdivision to a maximum of two lots. The council also directed the applicants, Fiorrino and Mary Spinazze, to work with neighbors on a new design as well as minimize the number of trees removed.

At the same time, council members approved the negative declaration for the project, which stated that there would be no significant environmental impact on the surrounding area. The Monte Sereno City Council also handles planning issues because the city does not have a planning commission.

The property is at 15785 Winchester Blvd., just south of the Daves Avenue and Winchester Boulevard intersection. The applicant proposed to divide the parcel into one 9,300-square-foot lot and two approximately 8,000-square-foot lots, constructing a cul-de-sac for the three homes.

Spinazze inherited the land from his parents, Louis and Mary Spinazze, and had planned on subdividing the property into three lots. According to his attorney, Bart Hechtman, Spinazze admittedly had not thought of meeting with the neighbors. "We're not dealing with a professional developer who has done this many times before," Hechtman said. "Frankly, the Spinazzes and I were surprised by the number of folks opposed to the subdivision."

Peter Shirley, speaking for Via Sereno resident Bryan and Joann Mekechuk, laid out four reasons for council members to deny the application. Eight significant trees would be removed, Shirley said, three of them redwood trees. Secondly, the subdivision would "exacerbate traffic issues"; Shirley said that a meeting on that very intersection had been held on July 15 with the Monte Sereno and Los Gatos traffic engineers, and they had not known about the proposed subdivision.

Also, the application increased the coverage of the land to 70 percentóthe General Plan limited the coverage to 60 percent. Lastly, the resident against the development said that there would be increased noise as a result of the new homes.

The city said, however, that both traffic engineers had studied the impacts of the proposal. Los Gatos engineer Gary Kruger wrote in a March 13 letter that the subdivision "would have minimal impact on the operation of Winchester Boulevard and the intersection of Winchester and Daves, whether that intersection is signalized or not." Kruger further wrote, "The installation of the cul-de-sac to serve the two new homes ... is entirely appropriate and permissible."

Monte Sereno's engineering consultant, Willdan Associates, recommended two traffic improvement measures: a "No Parking" sign on the west side of Winchester Boulevard between Daves Avenue and Via Sereno, and the connection of a proposed sidewalk with an existing curb.

The city included an additional measure that prohibits cars from making left turns into the subdivision from Winchester, as well as onto Winchester from the site.

Nancy Hobbs agreed with Shirley's concern with removing the trees. 'Once you cut those trees down, you can't replace them,î Hobbs said. Hobbs said that the trees help insulate the property from noise from the surrounding neighborhood.

Councilwoman Suzanne Jackson pointed out that three of the eight trees proposed for removal were on the perimeter of the property and belonged to Monte Sereno, not the Spinazzes.

The city could prohibit those three trees from being cut down, surmised Councilman David Baxter, thus eliminating the possibility of having a three-lot subdivision.

Because the removal of the redwood trees did not pose a threat to the environment, council members unanimously approved the negative declaration. This does not mean, however, that the trees will be cut down and the subdivision can go forward.

At the same time, the council members asked the developer to return to city council on August 21 with a plan for a two-lot subdivision that covers less than 60 percent of the lot.

Councilman Erin Garner said: "For me, personally, three lots doesn't work, at least in terms of the General Plan and neighborhood compatibility."
Gloria I. Wang

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