The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved the changes to the Aptos Village design requested by the developer, Barry Swenson Builder. The project initially won approval in 2012 after a decade in the planning process, but that approval granted the builder some flexibility in the final design. The approval today from the Board of Supervisors should allow the project to move forward with the requested modifications.
The meeting was well attended, despite starting at 9 AM on a weekday. Dozens of members of the community got up to speak, with proponents and opponents roughly evenly divided. Most of those opposed appeared to be the members of our community which will be most adversely affected by the construction and increased congestion in the village – that is, those living up Cathedral Drive, Trout Gulch Road, and Valencia Road.
Audio Recording of the Supervisor’s Meeting
The portion of the meeting which dealt with Aptos Village lasted over an hour and a half, and ended with little debate among the supervisors before they unanimously approved the changes. It seemed as though their support was a foregone conclusion, and there was substantial but muted commentary from those in attendance that their voices had not been heard, or at least not given due consideration.
At the end of the discussion and before the vote, Supervisors Zach Friend, John Leopold and Bruce McPherson did make some remarks. Supervisor Friend spoke to both the process by which the project was approved, and the need for a project like this. Many in attendance today who opposed to the project expressed a sentiment that the project was being pushed on the community with little input. Supervisor Friend addressed this head on, and seemed genuinely to feel as though the local government had in fact sought substantial community involvement and feedback.
Supervisor Leopold remarked that the government should be committed to a good public process, and that a “ten year project” with over 20 meetings meets that requirement. He went on to say he understands the community’s concerns about the density of the project. He mentioned specifically the Sustainable Santa Cruz County plan, which calls for greater density within the urban services line (the area served by public water and sewer) along the Soquel Drive corridor. By concentrating development within this area (in which Aptos Village is located), we can keep more parts of our county rural. Perhaps counter-intuitively, this kind of denser development is in fact more sustainable than the kind of sprawl found in so many suburban communities in many parts of the state and country. According to Leopold, from an environmental point of view, the Aptos Village is in many ways a model for future development within the county.
Supervisor McPherson mentioned that one of the main concerns from Santa Cruz county residents is the lack of affordable housing in the community, and that more housing must be built. He went on to say that the Aptos Village project will provide additional, much-needed housing, and that the new Aptos Village is a very environmentally sound project.