When asked how many were concerned and ready to take action against a proposal to reduce lot sizes for new homes in the Pinery, nearly everyone in the crowd raised their hand.
Almost 200 Pinery homeowners attended a community meeting Nov. 7 at Sagewood Middle School to discuss a proposal from Ashton Residential, a subsidiary of Great Gulf Group, to add up to 150 homes to the Timbers.
Four longtime residents – David Leonard, Clare Leonard, Lisa Stull and Sara Jo Light – urged their neighbors to get involved by learning the facts and making strong verbal arguments to Douglas County’s leadership once the proposal is up for approval.
The Leonards ran through a brief history of previous discussions with the developers, whom they say are reneging on a “good faith compromise” forged in 1995 after residents came out against a proposal to add 1,300 homes. Great Gulph withdrew the application several times, but the development of 771 homes was ultimately approved by a 6-1 vote of the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners. More than two-thirds of those homes have since been built.
The Pinery-Timbers Coalition has created a website and petition at www.protectthepinery.com to gain support among homeowners and hold the developer and Douglas County’s leaders accountable to their original agreement. Clare Leonard said the county commissioners will listen to concerns, but opponents need to speak their language and address the 10 criteria that the developer needs to meet for approval.
“Being involved counts,” she said.
Tim Price, who served on the Douglas County Planning Commission for more than 20 years, attended the meeting and suggested avoiding arguments about lower property values or reduced quality of life because of how such statements are viewed by decision-makers.
The 1995 agreement is not legally binding and cannot be challenged in court. Approved sketch plans are typically abandoned after one year of inactivity and the property owners must conduct studies before any further development is approved.
Dave Brehm, president of Plan West, said no formal application has been submitted and the company is still determining the potential impacts to schools, roads and water.
Hundreds of residents in enclaves like High Prairie Farms and Misty Pines, which is adjacent to the vacant land, have also come out against the proposal, which could reduce one-acre and 1.5-acre lots to as low as 10,000 square feet. The lots that abut the proposed development measure more than two acres.
The meeting reflected tense relations between some residents after Pinery Homeowners Association President Travis Dieringer asked to speak and urged those who attended the meeting to listen to the developer's proposal before opposing it. He said development is likely to occur, but the number of homes will be dictated by the level of opposition. Some in the audience criticized Dieringer for what they perceived as him siding with Great Gulph.
Dieringer said the Pinery HOA was not invited to the meeting, and some in the Timbers accused the Pinery of not disclosing the plans or discussions with the developers earlier.
Brehm said Ashton Residential and Plan West have no plans to compromise the reputation of the Timbers and will reach out to homeowners once the plan is more concrete. He said the housing market has forced the change and a proposal to increase density will likely be submitted in November.