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Changes to Monrovia Nursery Development Plan, Arsenic Raise Resident Concerns

The Glendora City Council approved changes to phasing plan of the 124-luxury home development Tuesday, but the changes doesn't sit well with some nearby residents.

The plan to build 124 luxury homes at the 95-acre former Monrovia Nursery site in northwest Glendora moved closer to construction when the city council approved what city staff called “minor” changes to its development plan Tuesday.

The “minor” changes referred mostly to technical changes to drainage easement, retention walls, and the rearrangement of its phasing schedule. Changes in the schedule include moving public improvement plans and a walkway on Sierra Madre Avenue to the tail end of the project rather than the beginning as some surrounding residents had hoped.

“That was part of the deal in the beginning,” resident Doug Boyd told the council Tuesday. “[Developer] City Ventures knew that and yet they asked the Planning Commission to have it pushed back to phase 4…People who live there deserve those improvements up front.” He said Sierra Madre is a high traffic area, and that a walkway is crucial to the safety of pedestrians.

City staff responded saying that because the area is a high risk flooding area, infrastructure needs to be in place before work on landscaping improvements, including a linear park and pedestrian and bicycle path, can begin.

Residents and trust members for the nearby historic Fairmount Cemetery have also asked the developers and the city to ensure that improvements at the cemetery site be made, including a dividing wall, monument sign and added electricity and water utilities on the cemetery property.

“We think the cemetery is inextricably entwined with the development itself,” said Boyd, who also represents S.O.S. Glendora, a group of concerned residents regarding the Monrovia Nursery development. “If you’re going to sell a $3 million house, you don’t want an eyesore out there in the cemetery.”

Boyd said without proper lighting, the expected increase of residents and traffic in the area would leave the cemetery vulnerable to trespassing.

City staff said City Ventures, who are shooting to begin building in April 2013, have agreed to most of the improvements requested for the cemetery, although electricity and water utilities would only be brought up to the cemetery property line.

“The cemetery is plenty protected and I think it will be in better protection that it’s ever been when this is all done,” City Planning Director Jeff Kugel said.

But another cause of resident concern was the process the developers were taking to address the presence of arsenic in the soil of the former Monrovia Nursery site.

City officials said a previous city study determined that levels of arsenic exceeding state levels were discovered in the southern portion of the property. Building permits cannot be issued to the developer unless a remediation plan to eliminate the contanimant is approved by the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The homeowners association of the future development will be responsible to pay the state to continually monitor the site’s arsenic levels following the development’s completion.

“We feel the state guidelines and the state rules will protect all of the community from issues related to toxic contaminated soils,” said City Planning Manager Diane Walter.

Resident Beverly Lee said she believed the site contained far more levels of contaminants than initially believed, citing multiple cases of babies born with Gastroschisis from mothers living near the development area.

Kugel said that extensive studies were conducted to test for all contaminants possible, and none other than arsenic were found.

“It’s always horrible to hear about babies born with birth defects, but there has been no evidence uncovered on the site of containments that will cause that now or in the future,” said Kugel.

The council approved the development review and modifications 4-1.

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