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Big Wave report draws hundreds of comments

Planning Commission receives report today

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Posted: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 12:00 am

Comments are in on the first draft of the environmental impact report for the proposed Big Wave project in Princeton.

The project, which calls for a 225,000 square-foot, three-story office park paired with a cooperative-style wellness center for developmentally disabled people on Airport Street, has proven to be a lightning rod for controversy among Coastsiders on both sides of the fence.

The first round of review elicited 243 e-mail and hard copy comments, in addition to 64 verbal testimonies presented before the county Planning Commission at a meeting in November.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of comments,” said Camille Leung, the lead county planner on the project.

The bulk of letters submitted echo the tones of impassioned parents and skeptics of the report who have voiced their perspectives to county officials and Midcoast Community Council meetings dedicated to the Big Wave project.

Aside from providing a platform for partisans to continue the public debate, the comments show a cumulative and deep concern from advocacy groups and a few regulatory agencies with oversight of the land on which the project is proposed.

Comments made by Committee for Green Foothills and the Sierra Club offer similar sentiments, summed up by Ken King, co-chair of the club’s Loma Prieta Chapter Coastal Issues Committee, who notes a “high number of concerns.” He takes issue with building near historic wetlands, and points out a host of other ecological impacts.

The county Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services sent in a five-page letter raising concerns about the possibility of a tsunami causing damage to buildings in the area. Statewide tsunami inundation maps released late last year show just about every inch of Princeton under water in the event of a tsunami – that includes the Big Wave project site.

Flood concerns, along with many others, were a focal point of 11 separate comments submitted by former Midcoast Community Council member Sabrina Brennan, who lives in Seal Cove. Brennan stands out as a vocal proponent of a more thorough report of the project’s cultural and environmental effect to the Coastside.

Montara Water and Sanitary District also calls for a more exhaustive report, calling the draft report “deficient, incomplete and incorrect” in its assessments of hydrology and water and sewage supply.

A small portion of the letters illuminates an area of concern relatively overlooked in public meetings: the impact to operations at Half Moon Bay Airport.

Caltrans makes note of the project’s 280-foot proximity to runways at the airport. Portions of Big Wave poke into the approach zone for one of the runways, and about a third of the project is situated inside an “extremely noise sensitive area,” according to the agency.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based in Maryland, takes issue with the “less than significant” impact assessment to the airport stated in the report.

“We simply do not believe that the addition of 70 apartments at the approach end of Runway 30 is a prudent decision,” wrote association Airport Policy Manager John Collins.

The City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County Airport Land Use Committee remarks on the language used in the report, offering more detailed definitions of “safety” and a deeper analysis of noise impacts.

The California Coastal Commission also highlights a need for further analysis – in just about every area the project would effect. In a 10-page letter, the commission points out a need for information that would allow commissioners to determine the project’s consistency with Local Coastal Program and Coastal Act standards.

In a separate e-mail, Coastal Commission North Central Coast District Supervisor Ruby Pap delineates a need for story poles on the project site to gauge the physical stature of Big Wave.

“We feel that story poles may be necessary to evaluate the project’s visual and aesthetic impacts,” Pap wrote to Leung. A petition signed by 27 Coastsiders, mostly Moss Beach residents, requests the public comment period start over after story poles are erected.

CalFire took no stance on the merits of the project. The agency mailed in a four-page letter – a sort of reminder – outlining the various fire codes by which Big Wave would have to abide.

Previous estimates of a timetable for Big Wave’s move through the county review process are being delayed about a month, Leung said.

In a staff report Leung will present to the Planning Commission this morning in Redwood City, Leung will note the next project hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 10. Story poles are required to be in place at the project site 10 days prior to that hearing.

Welcome to the discussion.

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