In the end, and after an eight-year effort, the Sariches won in a 3-2 vote. Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and councilmembers Jerry Thorne and Cheryl Cook-Kallio voted in favor of the Sarich project; councilmembers Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan voted against it.
There in the same room for a discussion that lasted more than two hours were a number of familiar faces. They included former Mayor Tom Pico, who is now a paid consultant to some developers, including the Sariches; Kay Ayala and Steve Brozosky, both former councilmembers and mayoral candidates who each ran unsuccessfully against Hosterman; Mary Roberts and Brian Arkin, former Planning Commission members and one-time chairs of the commission; and Greg Reznick, chairman of the Firehouse Arts Theater Foundation.
The Sarich property is located on the south side of what is now called Old Vineyard Avenue, a local street that serves residents there. Roberts' and Brozosky's homes are west of the Sarich property; Reznick's acreage borders to the east. All three spoke against the proposed estate home, as they also did at earlier hearings before the Planning Commission. That commission also approved the Sarich project in a 3-2 vote, and the city's Planning Department has consistently recommended approval.
The proposed two-story house would actually measure 9,900 square feet, with a below grade basement that would add another 3,200 square feet. An adjoining garage would have more than 1,700 square feet of floor space.
Roberts urged the council to "ditch this mansion." She described the home's Tuscanesque-design as a "Tuscan compound," and one "that basically disregards the natural setting of the hillside along the south side of Old Vineyard Avenue.
Agreeing with Reznick, Brozosky and Ayala, she said the massive size of the project would be inconsistent with the Vineyard Avenue Specific Plan that was written in the 1990s.
Brozosky complained that Sarich would remove 73 trees, including some that are classified as heritage trees.
"The emphasis of the specific plan was to maintain the rural character of this area and this isn't being done," Brozosky said.
Reznick, who recently received approval to build homes on his adjacent property, said the Sarich home "would be too big for the area."
In casting their votes against the project, Sullivan and McGovern basically agreed. Sullivan said that while Sarich and his architect had worked hard to screen the home from neighbors, "I can't get to the point where I think this house should be built."
He said the council's approval of the Reznick development was "a stretch," adding: "This to me is a farther stretch and I'm not comfortable in taking it."
Hosterman said she struggled with her decision to approve the project because of her environmental concerns over big houses and how they use too much energy and harm natural resources.
But I have to rid myself of my subjective views and be objective as I can," she added. "Based on the plans, I actually think this house will be the least visible on Vineyard, that it's well screened and that the plan should be approved."