DANVILLE -- A hotly contested plan to build 66 homes along heavily congested Diablo Road won the endorsement of the town Planning Commission on Tuesday, despite local residents' assertions that project should be put to a vote of Danville residents.

Commissioners recommended approval of the SummerHill homes development plan to place 66 homes on 410 acres of Magee Ranch property southeast of Diablo and McCauley roads.

The 5-1 vote came about 11 p.m. Tuesday after another long and spirited hearing in a town that prides itself on protecting open space.

More than 90 percent of 410 acres would remain as open space, with no houses on ridge tops, city staff said.

Most of 20 or so people who spoke Tuesday night criticized the project, however, saying the new homes would put more cars through an already clogged intersection at Diablo and Green Valley Roads.

"The road is perpetually busy," said Louis Leone, a Danville resident. "There are always delays."

Bob Nealis, an unsuccessful Town Council candidate in the last election, said the town government should recognize Danville voters' right to vote on the project under provisions of Measure S, a 2000 Danville ballot measure regulating development. He was loudly cheered by members of Save Open Space Danville.

But project critics persuaded only Commissioner Paul Radich to vote against the development.


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City officials said no citywide vote is required on the project because the property for years has had a town general plan designation that allows for residential development.

In defending the project, planning commissioners said the latest plan for the Magee Ranch property clusters homes closer together and provides more open space than a previous plan for homes spread out on 5-acre ranchettes.

"The benefits of this project are strong," said Commissioner Robert Combs. "We get 372 acres of open space I would like to hike in."

At Combs' urging, the commission trimmed the number of homes from 69 to 66 by deleting three proposed homes near Macauley Road.

The Save Mount Diablo conservation group said it came around to support the project after the developer pledged to keep 91 percent of the land in open space and keep all homes off ridgelines.

The development plan would provide a key new public trail to connect open space on Magee Ranch with the adjacent Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space, said Seth Adams, Save Mount Diablo's land programs manager.

Maryann Cella of Save Open Space Danville said her group will urge the City Council to put the development before voters. "We must still demand our Measure S right to vote on this project," she said in an email Wednesday.

Members of Save Open Space Danville gathered petitions aimed at getting a ballot measure aimed at tightening growth restrictions in Danville. But the city earlier this month rejected the paperwork as incomplete because the petitions lacked the full ballot title and summary, and names of the proponents.

The Town Council is expected to consider the SummerHill development plan in late June.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff