Stinson project will wait for new coastal program

05/14/2015

A decision on a contested development proposed for a low-lying neighborhood of Stinson Beach was once again postponed by supervisors—this time until the county approves a new Local Coastal Program, which could delay a call on the project until winter or next spring. In the meantime, the Community Development Agency will alert homeowners in the 100-year floodplain of Easkoot Creek that they might want to temporarily shelve ideas for new homes or additions, given the confusion that has arisen over language in the existing coastal program’s prohibition of development in that area. Last month, Supervisor Steve Kinsey said no significant development would be allowed until the language was clarified, but there is no official moratorium. “We’re not saying you can’t do anything,” Tom Lai, the assistant director of the agency, told the Light. “But...it would probably be very difficult.” On Monday, a lawyer for Heidi Hjorth, the Mill Valley realtor who owns the property, sent an email to the county on Monday asking that the application be held until the new coastal program takes effect. (Ms. Hjorth, when reached by phone, declined to comment on the reason for the request.) Critics of the project hailed the decision, hoping that under an updated coastal program, the county will conduct a more stringent assessment of the development’s impacts. “We want more environmental review,” said Kathleen Hurley, a neighbor who appealed the project. “It has not been held to the scrutiny we’d like to see.” The proposal for a 1,400-square-foot home and 535-square-foot garage on Calle Del Embarcadero was appealed by neighbors first to the Planning Commission, which unanimously denied it, and then to the Board of Supervisors. Neighbors claimed, among other things, that county code prohibits homes in the 100-year floodplain of Easkoot Creek, and they feared the new development would exacerbate local flooding by eliminating an area that collects floodwater. (Other issues that arose included the size relative to nearby homes, which average roughly 500 feet, and whether it would encroach on a 100-foot setback of the creek’s riparian area.) The commission was swayed by a county staffer who pointed out a loophole in the county’s development code that says the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for defining 100-year floodplains; because the agency had never done so—instead, the Federal Emergency Management Authority has defined them—no prohibition existed. Neighbors then appealed to county supervisors, who last month delayed action until the issue is clarified. Supervisors sent a letter to the California Coastal Commission requesting input on the issue, but they have not yet received a response.