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Community asked to weigh in on draft EIR for The Cannery

The former Hunt-Wesson cannery site along Covell Boulevard at J Street has been vacant for many years. A development proposal for the site is undergoing environmental review now. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | March 07, 2013 |

For about the next month, anyone who wants to weigh in on the draft environmental impact report for The Cannery, a planned community on the last large piece of undeveloped land in North Davis, can formally file their comments with the city’s development team as part of the California Environmental Quality Act process.

The city, as the lead agency on the project, opened up the review and comment period on the draft EIR on Feb. 25. It will remain open until April 12.

To file comments for The Cannery draft EIR, submit them in writing to Katherine Hess, community development administrator, at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd, Davis, CA 95616 or email them to khess@cityofdavis.org.

The full plans can be viewed online at http://community-development.cityofdavis.org/projects/the-cannery or in person at the city’s Department of Community Development and Sustainability, 23 Russell Blvd.

Additionally, the city’s Planning Commission will host a public hearing to receive comments on the draft EIR. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, in the Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

An EIR generally assesses the potential environmental impacts resulting from approval, construction and operation of a proposed project.

Working with a blank canvas of land — where the old Hunt-Wesson tomato cannery used to operate north of Covell Boulevard at J Street — city staff and the project’s developer, ConAgra Foods Inc., have envisioned for the 100-acre site a community featuring 551 units of low-, medium- and high-density housing.

The development team also has sketched into the blueprints space for business-park use, mixed-use with office space, open spaces — including a large central park in the heart of the community — agricultural buffers and an urban farm.

The only two regular access roads into the community would off of Covell Boulevard on the south side of the property.

With the project already well along in the design process — the Planning Commission and City Council are expected to rule on the final design in late spring or early summer — several residents in North Davis already have taken advantage of the comment period to express their concerns.

Specifically, residents are worried about the at-grade crossing for emergency vehicle access that would be built over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that run along F Street. Trains would be required to blow their whistles each time they chug past the crossing.

“The draft EIR does not contain sufficient analysis to allow the city to make an informed decision,” Jeff Sherman wrote to community development administrator Katherine Hess last week as part of his comment on the draft EIR. “It appears that the crossing will produce considerable noise from train warnings. The city should modify the project to remove the railroad crossing.”

Davis residents Morley and Lorell Hardaker added that “the trains do pass our home about five times a day and at least once at night, sometimes more during the harvest season. The potential required horn blowing is a very significant amount of noise that will be imposed on our quiet neighborhood when other emergency access can be built into the project that will not result in crossing the railroad tracks.

“And, of course, we have to wonder what will stop non-emergency vehicles from using the crossing.”

Hess said Wednesday that the developer is making efforts to classify the crossing as a quiet zone. If that fails, Hess added, he would consider pursuing a different type of crossing that would not require the train whistles.

As far as moving the access road entirely, Hess isn’t sure whether it would fit within the plans.

“In theory it could,” she said. “It would be pretty difficult and a different access road might raise other issues that might not have been addressed (in the draft EIR).”

Once the comment period closes, Hess and development staff will formulate responses to the comments and eventually prepare a final environmental impact report. From there, staff will make its final recommendations to the commission and council; the council has final say on the design.

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

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Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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