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From The Carmel Pine cone

Avalanche of comments delays hearing on P.B. plan


Published: April 9, 2004

THE COUNTY'S subdivision committee put off consideration Thursday of the Pebble Beach Company's latest development and open space plan to give its staff more time to consider a large volume of comments submitted in response to the project’s environmental impact report, which was released Feb. 4.

"There are potential issues in these letters that need resolution,” said planner Thom McCue. The key points in nearly 1,000 pages of comments from citizens, community and environmental groups, and government agencies include questions about the project’s water supply, impacts on Monterey pines and other plants, and changes to the road network in Del Monte Forest and surrounding areas, he said.

The P.B. plan, announced in the summer of 2000 by two of the company’s owners, Clint Eastwood and Peter Ueberroth, includes a new golf course, equestrian center, 170 hotel rooms, 33 homes and almost 500 acres of dedicated open space. About 100 acres of forest would be removed to make way for the golf course and other development.

The plan replaced the previous ownership’s proposal for more than 350 new homesites; the land was zoned in the 1980s by Monterey County and the California Coastal Commission for nearly 1,000 homes.

Subdivision committee chair Laura Lawrence said she hadn’t even “gotten through” all the material the group was supposed to consider and suggested a postponement to April 29. But she said members of the public who attended the hearing would still be allowed to offer their opinions on the Pebble Beach plan. And they did.

“We support the new proposal because it caps development in Pebble Beach,” said Paul Woudenberg, president of the Del Monte Forest Foundation, which would gain control of hundreds of acres of Monterey pine forest owned by the P.B. Co. "I don't like to see trees cut. But this will end development in Pebble Beach, so we can preserve everything we have."

Ted Hunter, a 20-year resident of Del Monte Forest who has spearheaded opposition to the P.B. Co. plan, said he would let others object to its particulars. “What I object to is the scheduling of the hearings,” Hunter said. “How can you make informed decisions without a final EIR, and without the necessary changes to the county's general plan?"

In November 2000, voters approved Measure A, sponsored by the P.B. Co., which rezoned property in Del Monte Forest to make the company's development plan possible. But Measure A won't take effect unless the California Coastal Commission accepts it. The commission's staff has already moved to stop the new golf course, and Hunter doesn't want the county to process a permit for the course until the commission has had more time to review Measure A, something coastal commission officials have also asked for &emdash; presumably to try to stop the project in its tracks.

“This entire proposal is based on Measure A, which the coastal commission can chop up and grind up and do whatever they want,” said committee member Jim McPharlin.

“I and many other taxpaying property owners join [the coastal commission staff] in calling for the county to take action on Measure A now,” Hunter said.

But senior planner Jeff Main said it was standard procedure to process zoning changes and projects relying on them simultaneously. Also, the county has no further action to take on Measure A, which was OK’d by 64 percent of voters countywide, and almost 70 percent in Pebble Beach.

“As far as the county is concerned, Measure A has already been approved,” Main said.

At the end of the public hearing, Alan Williams, retained by the P.B. Co. to see its proposal through the permit process, noted that seven people spoke in favor and three against.

“That’s about the same proportion we had approving Measure A,” he said.

He also noted that, while the comments on the EIR were voluminous--a single letter from activist David Dilworth ran more than 500,000 words--the number of letters was down to 80 for this EIR from more than 300 for the EIR on the previous development plan.

“I think that shows that we’re doing what the public wants us to--; reducing development and preserving open space,” Williams said.