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[whitespace] Classic Chicken Or The Egg conundrum derails access

Los Gatos--If you want to build a home, the county says you must have proper access to it. If you want to build an access road from a Monte Sereno street, however, you must have a proper place to build your home, city officials decided on Nov. 16.

In a 3-2 vote, the Monte Sereno City Council rejected a county landowner's request for access to a city street through an adjoining city resident's property.

Caught in the "chicken and egg" situation are county property owners Vernon and Nancy Genn. They are attempting to sell their 25-acre county property to Greg and Becky Atwood, who intend to build one home and set aside 20 acres as private open space.

However, the Atwoods only intend to go through with the purchase if they can access their property via Monte Sereno's Withey Road. George Callisch, the city property owner whose lot the access road would cross, has already granted an easement.

Council member Suzanne Jackson said the majority of the council was uncomfortable allowing access to the property until the county determined where there was a legitimate building site on the rugged property.

"To come and ask for access at this point was putting the cart before the horse," Jackson said. However, Jackson said the property owners did address the traffic and runoff concerns brought up by neighbors at the Nov. 2 meeting, and assuming the county approved a site, the council will likely grant access.

Developer Tony Jeans, speaking on behalf of the Atwoods, said they were frustrated by the council's denial. The Atwoods have already spent a considerable sum of money on a geological study of the building site, which was favorable, Jeans said. Spending additional money for further engineering work without the guarantee of approval may be a difficult step for the Atwoods to take.

"They have a certain degree of confidence that they'll get county approval, or they wouldn't have sought access [from the council]," Jeans said.

Councilman Gordon Knight, who voted to give access to the property, said he could not see any substantial reason not to approve the driveway. "It seemed like a small risk, especially since he was going to sign up for one house and give the rest to open space," Knight said.

Previous development proposals had placed several lots on the property, but neighbors' concerns, primarily over traffic, had led to the most recent proposal--one lot on 5.24 acres and 20 acres of private open space.

Knight also said he was under the impression that the county would not grant approval until it could be shown there was access to the site.

Jeans said Knight's understanding was correct. "Normally, when you go to the county for building site approval, they want you to have access," Jeans said. Jeans said he would approach the county and attempt to get approval based on the tentative support for the access road. After going through septic, fire prevention, geological and utility issues with the county, Jeans said he would return to the city for access before proceeding with in-depth architectural plans.

Access to the property could also be gained from Overlook Road in the county, but it would require a much longer road along an environmentally sensitive ridge.
Nathan R. Huff

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Web extra to the November 24-December 1, 1999 issue of Metro.

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