Commission approves controversial McCaffrey Homes plan

Bella Montagna backyardBella Montagna backyardThe Fresno Planning Commission last night unanimously approved plans and a zoning change for a north Fresno 118-home development by McCaffrey Homes with a stipulation that homes on the east side of the project adjacent to the existing Bella Montagna development will be single story.

The project, to be located near the intersection of Maple and Copper avenues, still must be approved by the Fresno City Council, which is expected to address the development plans sometime in May.

The residential project and zoning change is opposed by a group of nearby Bella Montagna residents who say the smaller, value-priced new homes will lower property values and reduce views from adjacent homes in the upscale Bella Montagna development.

They are also concerned about privacy and security issues.

The new two-story housing development would feature homes from approximately 1,152 square feet to 1,749 square feet. The site will include an open grass area and a pool.

The objecting homeowners say they would prefer a retail complex next to Bella Montagna. They insist they were told that the 13-acre property would be developed into a retail shopping center that would not impact views.

In addressing planning commissioners, Brent McCaffrey, president of McCaffrey Homes, said that revisions were made in project plans to address Bella Montagna residents’ concerns.

He said McCaffrey Homes looked into building a shopping center at the planned home site, but was told by Save Mart officials that the site has no retail potential. The builder also checked with Trader Joes, but was told the site was no longer viable for stores.

So McCaffrey began planning for a home project that initially had 135 homes, but was reduced to 118 homes. More recently the builder decided to move an open park area from the east side of the project to a more central location to reduce noise levels at Bella Montagna.

In addition, the main entry road that connects with Copper Avenue was moved from the east side of the project to the central north end.

Also, an open area called out-lot E has been added to the south side of the development, providing greater distance between the new homes and north-facing homes in the Bella Montagna development. “On the south border there is now a 120-foot setback,” Brent McCaffrey said.

In another change, the homes at the south end of the new development will face south so new homeowners cannot look out rear windows to see into someone’s backyard, McCaffrey said.

Homeowners opposed to the project say that although revisions were made, the area of the new development is simply too small for 118-homes. They also insist that McCaffrey Group could make much more money in developing a commercial center than in putting in a new home development.

In addition, attorney Tom Watson, representing the opposed homeowners, said the new project is in need of a full environmental impact report.

Besides a zoning change, McCaffrey homes requested a negative environmental declaration for the planned residential project, which was approved by the Planning Commission.