By Shawn Raymundo

The city’s planning commission approved modified site plans for the proposed River Street Marketplace development on Tuesday, Sept. 24, sending the plans back to city council for consideration and review.

The commission voted, 4-0-1, in favor of a resolution recommending that the council approve the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed shopping and dining center, which was recently revised to address several concerns that residents near the planned development had raised.

Commission Chair Howard Hart recused himself from Tuesday’s deliberations over the project because, he said, he had previously taken “a very public stance” on it.

The River Street Marketplace, proposed by local developer Dan Almquist, intends to be a “pedestrian-oriented” center on the southeast corner of Paseo Adelanto and River Street. If completed, it will feature both indoor and outdoor dining, produce stands and other “artisan-type” retailers and businesses.

According to the city, the overall footprint of the project has been reduced to roughly 59,060 square feet from its original design of 64,900 square feet. The plans were also reconfigured to incorporate seven buildings instead of five, several of which were relocated and downsized.

The largest of the five initial buildings, the Marketplace, was planned to be 23,100 square feet, positioned on the south end of the center, closest to the parking lot. Instead, the building will sit on the northwest portion of the lot, right along River Street.

The Greenhouse building, a single-story structure meant to house restaurants and retail shops, will virtually remain where it was initially planned, on the east side of the site, but will be 7,040 square feet instead of 10,900 square feet.

Next to the Greenhouse will sit one of the two new buildings, the Hay Loft, which will include the restrooms and is set to take up about 3,900 square feet of the space. The other new building, the Workshop, is close to the middle of the complex, covering 4,000 square feet.

Two of the original buildings, the Mercantile and the Red Barn, increased in size. The Mercantile went from 18,800 square feet to 22,443 square feet, while the Red Barn grew from 7,500 square feet to 8,080 square feet. Both kept their relative positions on the lot.

The city also noted that the number of parking spaces has been reduced from 292 to 242, as the originally planned parking lot on the west side, adjacent to Paseo Adelento, has been reconfigured to accommodate the Mercantile and Workshop buildings.

As a result of the decrease in square footage and lot coverage, the landscape area will increase, with Almquist intending to include more than 250 additional trees, including orchard trees. The orchard trees will line the eastern side of the Marketplace, putting separation between the buildings and homes on Los Rios Street.

“I think that with the larger green area now, maybe even more than before, we achieve our original intent of creating a true community gathering place,” Almquist said at the planning commission meeting.

The planning commission this past May had voted to send the previous iteration of the project on to the city council. However, days before the council was scheduled in early July to consider the project’s EIR, the city received a letter from an attorney representing Jeff Vasquez, a resident on Los Rios who had staunchly opposed the plans.

In the letter, Vasquez’s attorney outlines a litany of issues and concerns with the findings of the environmental report, imploring the city not to certify it.

After the city received the letter, Almquist requested to postpone the council’s consideration so he and Vasquez could meet and iron out the concerns.

Late last month, Almquist announced to the council that he and Vasquez had come to a compromise, agreeing to the revised plans, which the city said needed to go back to the planning commission before it could be presented to the council.

“I know a lot of people have talked about what’s taken place since we last came before you, but it’s been an interesting journey for us, and I can say that I’ve learned a lot going through this,” Almquist said Tuesday. “Jeff and I, I can say, we’ve become friends, and we’ve spent a lot of time together working on this project, and I’m happy where we’re at.”

According to City Manager Ben Siegel, councilmembers are expected to consider the EIR for the revised site plans during their Oct. 15 meeting.

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