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Tuesday, Dec 03 2013 05:15 PM

Houses on former school site up for vote

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    This vacant 12-acre parcel of land at River Run Boulevard and Elkhorn Creek Lane may soon have 53 single-family homes built here.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Hillary Miller, left, and Jennifer Gilstrap, take a walk in their neighborhood with their children including Laney Gilstrap, right, and Maddie Miller, and Dillon Gilstrap inside the stroller Tuesday afternoon across the street from the vacant 12-acre parcel that may soon be developed into 53 single-family homes.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Once-controversial plans to build 100 condominiums on southwest land at River Run Boulevard and Elkhorn Creek Lane have been replaced with more accepted plans for 53 single-family homes, the Bakersfield Planning Commission will learn during a public hearing Thursday.

Building officials issued a grading permit for the nearly 12-acre parcel Nov. 6, which a city planner said could mean the current developer, Kern Land Partners, LLC -- a less-colorfully named sister company to the previous Black Ops Real Estate IV, LLC -- wants to move quickly.

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The Bakersfield Planning Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall council chambers, 1501 Truxtun Ave. Meetings also may be viewed live on cable channel KGOV. Past meetings can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/qfatap5.

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"It sounds like they're wanting to do stuff, because they're doing it before the Planning Commission approved it," said Principal Planner Martin Ortiz. "It's grading at risk because we haven't approved it yet."

Any risk that planning commissioners won't approve the project's tentative tract map appears to be small -- a dramatic change since March, when then-developer Black Ops planned apartments for the former school site and about 30 neighbors staged a protest.

In the face of organized opposition and impassioned testimony at Planning Commission meetings, Black Ops changed its plans from apartments to condos, then announced the withdrawal of those plans at a July meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

At that meeting, new plans were revealed to replace the condos with 78 single-family homes at the site northeast of Ming Avenue and Allen Road.

Now, the plan calls for 53 houses on lots of around 6,000 square feet, and streets that will connect to Elkhorn Creek Lane, not busier River Run Boulevard.

Neighbors have no problem with that.

"It's all been handled real well. We're going to be out there, those of us who are going to go, and we're going to be in support of the developer," said Michael Fitzgerald, a nearby neighbor who has been concerned about the future of endangered San Joaquin Valley kit foxes, who lived on the land, but now thinks the species has been handled appropriately.

River Oaks resident Amy Johnson Barks, an attorney who coordinated efforts to thwart first the apartments, then condos, said residents are happy to have the site built out and get some new neighbors.

"We feel very grateful that they see the benefit in building homes that are consistent with the neighborhood," she said. "We feel it's a win-win for them and for us. They're not the losers."

Neither Matt Wade, owner of Kern Land Partners, nor his representative Roger McIntosh responded to requests for comment.

Planning Commissioner Jeffrey Tkac said he has a conflict and won't be able to attend Thursday's meeting, but thinks this is an example of government working.

"It's in an area that's been growing in Bakersfield and it's residential, so it's a good in-fill position," Tkac said, meaning that the houses should sell well. "I think these guys see the bigger picture."

In other business, the Planning Commission will consider a request from Cahan Panama, LLC to modify plans for Silver Creek Plaza, a partially developed, 20-acre retail center it owns at Panama Lane and Ashe Road.

The center is home to the city's second WinCo Foods, which is slated to open in February or March, but Cahan wants to replace a 3,000-square-foot drive-through restaurant planned for the center's northwest corner with a nearly 12,000-square-foot retail building.

There's no word on what retailer might be coming to the center. City officials referred a reporter to Cahan officials, who did not respond to requests for comment.

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