LAFAYETTE -- City leaders are asking for additional review before approving the final phase of what developers have described as a "transit village" that would place 72 condominiums -- including eight affordable housing units -- next to existing shops and apartments near Lafayette BART.

Mayor Carol Federighi and council members Don Tatzin and Carl Anduri voted this week to send plans for the third phase of the Town Center project back to the city's design review and planning commissions after expressing concerns about the building's design and mass. Council members Brandt Andersson and Mike Anderson were absent and didn't vote.

The decision came more than a month after the planning commission voted to deny the project over concerns about the building's height. Plans had originally called for a 179,464-gross-square-foot, five-story building with three residential floors above a two level underground parking garage, to be built on a parking lot near Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Dewing Avenue. Commissioners rejected a slightly smaller building that retained a portion of the fifth floor they had suggested be removed.

On Monday, developer KB Home was seeking approvals for a smaller, four-story building that council members said they did not feel qualified to greenlight without the updated project being seen by the city's design review and planning commissions. The approvals include an amendment to the BART Block Specific Plan, which sets building heights at three stories and 35 feet in a specific downtown area, and a zoning amendment to the development plan to allow housing instead of offices.

"What concerns me is what we have before us is something design review and the planning commission has not seen before," said Anduri, who favored sending the project back. He also commented on the building's shape, saying plans now show a rectangular box.

Tatzin also supported taking another look, but city attorney Mala Subramanian cautioned that officials must make a decision within 45 days or risk being sued for breaching an agreement with property owners Lafayette Residential Partners, LLC.

KB Home Northern California senior vice president Ray Panek spoke about the project's history as well as recent modifications that reduced the number of units and stories in the building. He said the project will also include open spaces, a pedestrian path and a playground, and showed renderings of the smaller building no longer obstructing views of Lafayette's esteemed ridgelines.

Architect Jeffrey Heller characterized architectural renderings as "shorthand" and said designs couldn't go further until the council is comfortable with signing off on the basic building height. Federighi indicated she wants a more complete idea of what the project will look like and said the developer was asking the council to trust that after approval, they would return with changes that would make the building more compatible with the Town Center II complex.

Some residents supported the project and praised its location near transit. Others urged the council to deny it, saying the building is too dense, too tall and will block views. They also commented on traffic impacts and suggested the city's circulation committee take a look at the project. However, the process agreement only allows for hearings before the design review and planning commissions, and the city council, according to senior planner Christine Sinnette.

A second public hearing will be held Nov. 13.

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