Jill Williams – New housing a stone’s throw closer to reality

Winters Express

August 3, 2017

The Stones Throw development, formerly known as Winters Highlands, will move forward after the planning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the housing design to city council at the July 25 meeting.

The project is located north of the Public Safety Facility, across Main Street from the Winters Ranch development.

Contract Planner David Doswell commented that the design review committee had made some critiques to the plans, which the developer has already agreed to implement, including breaking up rear walls with pop-out features, and making shutters around the houses more consistent for aesthetic appeal.

Commissioner Lisa Baker brought up a safety issue with some of the front entrances, which contained a wide column wall in front of the door, which could be a barrier to visibility of criminal activity.

Jill Williams, principal architect with KTGY responded that the police department had aired similar concerns and the firm plans on altering the entry.

“We’re making sure all those entrance areas have really good visibility. We’ve applied all of that and we’re using a very collaborative approach,” said Williams.

Along with visibility, “visitability” was another concern brought up by Baker, who wanted to see some elements like a lack of steps up to the front door for better accessibility for those in a wheelchair, or using walkers or canes.

Williams answered that those elements will likely be placed in some of the single-story homes on a case-by-case basis.

“With the concept that not every unit has to be modified, when you don’t, you’re denying your friends, neighbors and grandmothers to visiting your home,” said Baker.

Winters resident Kate Laddish echoed Baker’s concerns.

“Visitability is hugely important,” said Laddish, “People form friendships… (lack of visitablility) squashes all kinds of opportunities.

“People never think it’s going to happen to them. If we rely on the homebuyer to choose, I think we’re going to lose an opportunity. Once that opportunity is lost, it’s really hard to go back,” said Laddish.

Baker pointed out that since grading on the project had already begun, full ADA compliance was not plausible, but looking for elements like a flush threshold would be key.

She suggested a study session on visitability so future developments would have pre-exisiting guidelines to follow.

Dry Creek setback

Doswell brought back the issue of setbacks along Dry Creek to the commission. Currently the city mandates that any structures on the property have to be 50 feet from the creek’s edge.

“Virtually every house along Dry Creek violates that,” said Doswell.

Because most houses along the creek were put in before the requirement was established, they can exist without violating city code, but homeowners cannot make changes to the house without first bringing the structure into compliance.

Winters resident Valerie Whitworth suggested the city partner with the Solano Water Agency to fund a study on the flow of the creek before making any policy decisions.

Doswell said he would bring back some drafts for possible ordinances to deal with new building on properties backing up to Dry Creek.

New commissioners

This was the first planning commission meeting for new commissioners Ramon Altamirano and Daniel Schrupp. They took seats vacated by Frank Neal, who resigned before his term was up, and Kate Frazier, whose term ended in June. Altamarino will fill the remainder of Neal’s term, and Schrupp will serve a complete four-year term.

The commission voted unanimously to select Lisa Baker as the new chairperson, replacing former chairperson Frazier. Paul Myer was unanimously selected as vice chairperson.