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Lilian Project: Value at what price?

RANCHO SANTA FE — On Jan. 15, the Association’s board of directors postponed voting on the Preliminary Application for the Lilian Project to allow residents of the Ranch three more weeks of public review and comment.
Concerned residents came out in droves on Thursday; so many, in fact, the public meeting was moved from the Association’s board room across the street to the Garden Club, a larger facility. Building Commissioner Robert Green gave an overview of the Lilian Project, which is now in its third incarnation. The project includes five residential units, ground floor commercial space and a three-level subterranean parking structure containing 62 parking spaces. The project was reviewed by the Art Jury at its meeting Dec. 9, 2008, and was approved with 19 conditions. The staff made their recommendation after adding two more conditions, for a total of 21.
Architect Allard Jansen then gave a brief update on the architectural changes that had occurred to reduce the project from 11 residents to seven, and now to five. He also described how no variances are now required for the three-level parking structure. According to Jansen, the Lilian Project, once completed, “will be a more pedestrian experience. There will be walkways between the commercial areas, much as there are in the town at the present moment.”
According to Jansen, who represented owners Joe and Caylee Pinsonneault, there would be much activity during the construction of the project, including:
— 40 trucks per day
— 520 daily excavations
— 41 days of excavations
— 1,640 total number of trucks
— 21,130 cubic yards of excavation
— Five trucks per hour
Indeed, it is the construction process that had most residents attending the meeting up in arms. “My concern is over the massive structural damage to roadways,” longtime Ranch resident Bill Hinchy said. “The interruption of business and to our lifestyle in the Ranch will be a big burden. If the project goes forward, it will be two or more years of disruption. We need assurances the village will return to the way it was. We can’t count on the county. We need to be very careful. This should be bonded to the hilt.”
“What value is this to all of us?” resident Elsa Nicholson asked. “I am bowled over by the enormity of it.”
Association President Lois Jones asked residents to write letters addressing their concerns. “We need letters of objections,” she said. “This is very important.”
After listening to many residents voice their concerns, several members of the board voiced their considerations. “The application proves the system works,” Director Tom Lange said. “The major question is: will it harmonize with the environment? As past president of the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society, I am concerned that the design fits the village concept. … This design does that and will add value. I support it.”
“This project has come a long way,” Director Bill Beckman said. “The applicant has been very responsive. The scale is now appropriate. Change is inevitable. The project should receive approval.”
Director Steve Shillington, however, had other concerns. “The impact to the community should not be taken lightly,” he said. Shillington had done his own calculations on how long it would take for the parking structure to be excavated and his calculations were at odds with the architects’. “The size and scope of this project is enormous,” he said.
Even though it is the applicant’s Preliminary Application, approval of the project is important. Should the applicant comply with the conditions set forward by the Art Jury, staff and the Association’s board of directors, final approval would be imminent. Considering this, Jones asked that the decision be put off for three weeks to allow the public more time to review and comment. Counsel for the Pinsonneaults objected to the postponement.
“The people of the community should be heard,” Susan Woolley said to applause of support.
The vote will go before the Association’s board of directors at the next meeting scheduled for Feb. 5, which is open to the public.