The Pleasanton City Council Tuesday approved a zoning change for Centerpointe Presbyterian Church's 6-acre site at Valley Avenue and Busch Road to allow construction of 25 new homes in addition to keeping the Montessori private school already on the site.
As part of the agreement, Ponderosa Homes, the developer that will purchase the now-rezoned 4.2-acres of the site, will build the homes over a three-year period to accommodate concerns over more housing in the city during a drought.
The council's approval came in a 4-1 vote after a two-hour public hearing dominated by speakers opposed to the zoning change, although 80% of those in the packed council chamber, by a show of hands, indicated their support of the church-requested rezoning.
The Rev. Mike Barris, pastor of the church, said his congregation acquired the site with the intention of building a church education building and a 900-seat sanctuary. Over the years since the church sold and moved from its property on Mirador Street, the church's financial situation deteriorated.
Although the education building was constructed and is now the Montessori West school. Centerpointe can no longer afford to build the main sanctuary. It is now considering a less expensive site for its new location and will use the proceeds of its sale to Ponderosa to finance that move.
Councilwoman Karla Brown was the only member of the council to vote against the zoning change, agreeing with former Mayor Tom Pico and other speakers that the site should remain zoned for a church or other similar institution, sites that she said are in short supply in Pleasanton.
Traffic concerns and the current drought took a back seat during Tuesday night's discussion after data was showed both would be exacerbated if Centerpointe completed its building plan as now approved over the minimal effect the 25 homes would add.
Montessori West, which is acquiring the school structures from Centerpointe, already has city and state approvals for its operation, including adding another building as it expands enrollment in preschool and kindergarten through sixth grades.
But the rest of the site, including the church's large dirigible-shaped sprung structure, will now be cleared under Ponderosa's plan for 25 houses. The council stipulated that only six houses could be built in 2016 under the city's Growth Management ordinance, with the rest again in stages the following year with some possibly delayed until 2018.
Brown joined former Mayor Tom Pico and several other speakers in urging that the site keep its current zoning even if Centerpointe moves away. They said the city is short of sites zoned or even suitable for the types of uses the Centerpointe property offers, including child care facilities.
"When I was first elected, I was told that the most important thing I could do on the City Council was to create more institutional spaces," Pico said. "Churches are looking for places to build here. The don't want to build on industrial sites. This is the last piece of property for that and we should not change the zoning."
Barris said Centerpointe's church leadership deliberately sought out Ponderosa to acquire the site and build homes.
"There are a number of congregations that are looking for sites like ours to build mega-churches for 3,000 and 4,000 people," Barris said. "We didn't feel that would be the best use of this site. This is a nice residential neighborhood and we believe this plan enables us to best serve the community."
Although those opposed to rezoning the property for homes dominated the discussion Tuesday, the majority of those attending the meeting who supported the church chose not to speak at Barris' request. He said his remarks along with other representatives from the church and Ponderosa Homes were publicly stating the positive points for rezoning already. Many speaker cards that were taken out at the beginning of the meeting were never used.
"This church needs a change," Councilman Jerry Pentin said n voting to rezone the site. "It's plans didn't work out for this site. It now plans to move to a different site so it will still be in Pleasanton. Change happens."