Novato’s Hanna Ranch hotel-commercial plan draws praise, concerns

Updated: May 18, 2018

POSTED: 08/17/17, 5:25 PM PDT | UPDATED: ON 08/18/2017

Author: Stephanie Weldy

Publication: Marin Independent Journal

Plans for the Hanna Ranch development in Novato include a gas station and a hotel. Provided by City of Novato

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Revised plans for Novato’s Hanna Ranch commercial project are getting good early reviews, but concern lingers over traffic and water quality at the 20-acre site between Vintage Oaks Shopping Center and Highway 37.


The city’s Design Review Commission on Wednesday got a first glimpse of amended plans from Pacific Star Capital of Santa Monica. The plan is an offshoot of a proposal that gained full city approval in 2011.


“I think (design review commissioners) were favorable in terms of the design and the way it was laid out,” said Steve Marshall, Novato’s planning manager. “They said the project, if it comes back for further design review, they want to see better architectural detailing.”


The new proposal includes a hotel with 125 rooms — nine more than the original plan. The building footprint under the new plan would expand from 15,073 to 16,000 square feet, but its proposed height of 56 feet, 6 inches would not change.


Restaurant space in the new plan increased by 1,640 square feet. The developer seeks to create space for three restaurants, one more than in the old plan.


A new component is a 7,560-square-foot Costco gas station with up to 24 pumps.


The revised project has a smaller total building footprint than the project approved in 2011. Also, the new plan eliminates building encroachment into a 50-foot wetlands buffer adjacent to the pond at the Beverly Ehreth Ecological Nature Preserve.


The commissioners, with Patrick MacLeamy and Marshall Balfe absent, expressed support for the reduction in total building footprint.


They did suggest a decrease in what has been dubbed Building C, proposed to house office and retail space. A tower element on the 12,063-square-foot building is proposed to reach 57 feet, 6 inches.


“They were concerned about the mass, height and location of Building C,” Marshall said. “They felt like that particular building needed work in terms of reducing height, and pulling it away from the sidewalk to give it a better pedestrian feel.”


MacLeamy, who submitted comments on the design, wrote that the gas station, proposed to sit on a small panhandle neighboring the pond, is well situated there.


Some proposed access roads need continued work to create a “sense of arrival,” he said.


Commissioner Michael Barber said elements have been added and taken away, but the plan is still similar to what was originally approved six years ago.


“It felt like they were doing a good job of placing buildings in between the knolls,” he said. “Overall, I’m positive about the project.”


Although the commission does not have purview over traffic and water quality issues, Barber said traffic would be his major concern over the project.


“I feel traffic is already a bit problematic, especially around the Christmas season,” he said. “That will add to that.”


He said the gas station might not only increase traffic but also have a visual impact.


Tina McMillan, the only resident to comment at the workshop, said a primary issue is the lack of a secondary egress, other than Rowland Boulevard.


“The Costco gas station, on top of the hotel, adds a huge daily impact to traffic,” she said in a written statement. “Just look at traffic associated with the Safeway gas station and then think triple, or more of a customer base.”


She said it may be time to create another major artery connecting to the area.


Marshall said some comments also touched on concern with the gas station situated so close to the area’s pond.


The applicant, who did not respond to requests for comment, is expected to consider comments made at the workshop and resubmit plans before returning to the commission for a formal hearing. The Planning Commission and City Council also must consider the proposal.

To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/government-and-politics/20170817/novatos-hanna-ranch-hotel-commercial-plan-draws-praise-concerns

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