PITTSBURG -- Over the objections of Dow Chemical, a four-acre parcel of vacant land near Highway 4 and Loveridge Road will be rezoned from commercial to residential to clear the way to build 33 homes there.
The Pittsburg City Council gave tentative approval to an ordinance that rezoned the parcel earlier this week at the request of Discovery Builders, one of the companies of the Seeno construction empire. The ordinance will come back to the council for formal approval on Oct. 21.
Council members voted 4-1 to reject a staff recommendation not to rezone and instead went along with a razor-thin Planning Commission recommendation (that vote was 4-3) to rezone the parcel to residential. Mayor Nancy Parent cast the no vote, saying there are plenty of houses in the pipeline without making the land-use change and that Pittsburg would be better served by not changing commercial and industrial parcels to promote its tax base and job growth.
Louis Parsons, a representative of Discovery Builders, urged council members to make the zoning change on the company-owned parcel, which is near industrial and retail uses, residential neighborhoods and Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High. The infill project, which are built in already developed areas, would provide homes for first-time buyers, he said.
"I believe there is a need for this type of (housing) as evidenced in the market," he said.
The parcel is within one mile of Dow Chemical's Loveridge Road plant.
"We're very concerned about this encroachment. Once you turn it into residential, you won't go back," said Randy Fischback, associate director of government affairs at Dow.
He used the analogy of a new neighborhood that develops near an existing airport and the potential complications such adjacent land uses can create.
"Suddenly, you have this concern about the airport, the noise and other things that it created even though the airport was (already) there, and that would be our concern that a similar thing would happen here."
In recommending a no vote on the zoning change, the staff report noted there are more than 2,000 single-family homes, either recently built or under construction, and an additional 1,300 additional homes under planning review in Pittsburg.
"This property in particular was (once) zoned for heavy industry, and at the request of the same developer, it was zoned to what is now commercial," Parent said before the vote. "They had 16 acres, they developed 12. And they were left with four. Because they cannot sell it to somebody now for commercial, they want to do something else and get it off their books."
But Councilman Ben Johnson said the zoning change to allow houses would meet a community need.
"I don't see commercial going there," he said. "This would probably be our best structure as far as I'm concerned looking at the overall development picture of our community."
While the zoning change was tentatively approved, Discovery Builders will still have to bring the actual project before city officials for review at a later time.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/eastcounty_girl.