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[whitespace] Some in community continue pressure for non-commercial uses in North Forty

Planning commissioners told to avoid using 'weasel words'

Los Gatos--If the town were to summarize public input on the North Forty Specific Plan, one recurring theme would become apparent: Many Los Gatans want the Specific Plan to be a lot more specific.

The community's fear of numerous loopholes and "weasel words" was expressed at length to the Planning Commission at its Oct. 27 meeting. Those who attended came to address chapters 3 and 4 of the plan--development standards and guidelines, and administration and implementation.

A number of speakers asked the commission to revise the plan to more accurately detail the type, size and style of development allowed in the North Forty.

Ambiguities in the document's language describing all aspects of possible development--including phrases like "unless" and "whenever possible"--need to be eliminated to ensure projects would fit in with existing commercial areas in Los Gatos, speakers argued.

"We want more of the same in Los Gatos," Los Gatos Porch co-owner Larry Arzie told the commission.

Commission chairwoman Laura Nachison continued the public hearing to Nov. 10, when the commission will provide a summary of the public comments and have a further opportunity for discussion on the Specific Plan. After that, the commission will consider making a recommendation to the Town Council.

The North Forty Specific Plan is intended to offer development guidelines for the roughly 40 acres of land sandwiched between highways 85 and 17, and Los Gatos Boulevard. Currently, close to 75 percent of the land is orchards belonging to the Yuki family, who have shown no interest in developing the property.

The debate over the North 40 is complicated by the ongoing revision of the General Plan, which would supercede the authority of the Specific Plan once completed. But while the Specific Plan may have to be completely overhauled in the next year or so, town staff and the Planning Commission want development guidelines in place for any projects that come on line in the immediate future.

The current North Forty Specific Plan describes the area as being mixed-use commercial, a designation which some in the audience complained about both at the Oct. 27 meeting and at the previous public hearing on Oct. 13.

In a new vision statement crafted by several members of the recently formed Neighborhood Alliance and members of the business community at the commission's request, the authors wrote: "Our community does not need intense retail development, and large retail or wholesale will be excluded from this area."

A growing contingent in favor of a soccer field/recreation complex also made its presence felt at the meeting. Michéle Jehenson, who also spoke at the Oct. 13 public hearing, questioned why the document went into such detail over the design of any commercial structures but offered little information on how civic-use projects should be designed.

Funding potential civic projects was also discussed. Joanne Talisburg, one of the new Vision Statement co-authors and a co-founder of the Neighborhood Alliance, made suggestions ranging from using a portion of the town's economic uncertainty fund to putting a bond on the ballot.

Joe Rodgers told the commission that funding wouldn't be that hard to come by. "We have a very wealthy community," Rodgers said. "I have no doubt we can raise the money."
Nathan R. Huff

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Web extra to the November 4-10, 1999 issue of Metro.

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