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[whitespace] Town Council drops North Forty Specific Plan like hot potato it has now become

Los Gatos--After months of debate, rewrites and pubic hearings, the beleaguered North Forty Specific Plan met its demise Dec. 6 at the Los Gatos Town Council meeting.

In the spirit of the Planning Commission meetings before it, council members heard from citizens who criticized the plan's emphasis on economic stability and its failure to adequately detail possible public uses.

Following a relatively short discussion, the council unanimously agreed to reject the North Forty Specific Plan and delay the adoption of a new or revised plan until after the ongoing General Plan update has been completed.

The North Forty Specific Plan intends to guide development of the 44-acre site bounded by Lark Avenue and Highways 85 and 17. The majority of the acreage is agricultural land owned by the Yuki family; a scattering of small commercial and residential parcels make up the remainder of the area.

The town had wanted a specific plan in place to address small development applications that were coming forward for the area. But the plan's emphasis on commercial and retail development drew the attention of the fledgling Neighborhood Alliance group, whose members showed up en masse to criticize the plan and gathered community support along the way.

"Timing is everything," Councilman Joe Pirzynski said, referring to the cash-strapped era in which the plan was created. "In 1993, this plan was appropriate. But six years is a long time."

Other council members agreed the plan did not fit into the town's current needs. Citing public testimony on behalf of sports fields, theater, open space, schools and, most recently, children's medical facilities, the council agreed it did not make much sense to adopt a specific plan that was out of step with the community and would need to fit into a General Plan which may soon be obsolete.

Councilman Jan Hutchins also emphasized that, because the land may not come up for development for decades, guessing what community needs will be at that time would be premature. "Why would we be so silly as to make the same mistake and put in writing what we want now?" Hutchins asked.

Hutchins spoke with the Yuki family earlier this year. He said they gave no indication of selling the land and had just planted several rows of new walnut trees. Other council members agreed that the ball was in the Yuki's court. The time to revisit the specific plan should be when the family indicated it was ready to sell.

Linda Lubeck was the only council member who spoke in defense of the plan and the process that led to it, but she agreed that the council should wait until the General Plan is complete before adopting a specific plan.

"Forgive me for feeling we've been wrongly accused of trying to do something with this plan that was never meant [to be done]," Lubeck said at the meeting. She later added that she believed 75 percent to 95 percent of the document is solid and that the plan "allowed for pretty much everything they want."

"I don't think the plan is that flawed," Lubeck said. "It's how you read it and how you interpret it."

The 1997 Los Gatos Boulevard Plan and current General Plan will govern any developments that come online on the North Forty between now and the adoption of the next general and specific plans.

However, despite the town's failure to adopt a specific plan for the area, lessons from the North Forty debate will most likely be incorporated into the General Plan revision process.

"If we can derive anything from this," Pirzynski said, "It's that we have to remain open to a continual evolution of thought, and the plan must include many uses to reflect that."
Nathan R. Huff

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Web extra to the December 16-22, 1999 issue of Metro.

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