CONCORD (CBS SF) – A 70-townhome residential project in northeastern Concord can move forward, with the Concord City Council’s rejection of an appeal of the project’s Feb. 19 approval by the city planning commission.

The council’s 3-2 vote came despite dozens of commenters – via Zoom, telephone and email – who blasted the project for myriad reasons, most notably its density, its expected impacts on traffic and safety impacts on students at nearby schools.

The 70-unit Clayton Road Townhomes is planned to be built behind existing businesses on the south side of the 3500 block of Clayton Road.

Artist's rendering of proposed townhomes on the 3500 block of Clayton Road in Concord. (City of Concord)

Artist’s rendering of proposed townhomes on the 3500 block of Clayton Road in Concord. (City of Concord)

Catalyst Development Partners is the project applicant; Catalyst consultant Guy Houston said no developer has been determined.

The Planning Commission’s approval had been appealed by longtime Concord resident Colleen Coll. She reiterated Tuesday night several reasons for her appeal, including that the development is too dense for that area, that it would adversely affect already crowded nearby streets, and that the project is “pro-developer and not pro-Concord taxpayer.”

“This is not a not-in-my-backyard NIMBY group — we’re very amenable to construction,” she said.

Several neighbors described (via phone, Skype and email) traffic issues, the height of the proposed buildings and toxic waste cleanup at the building site.

Early in the 3.5-hour hearing, Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer asked her colleagues to consider postponing the townhome discussion until residents in the area could address the council with their concerns in person.

Because of concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus, Tuesday night’s meeting — as local government meetings generally are in the COVID-19 era — was conducted remotely. Obringer said that, given the shutdown of home construction, it wouldn’t have hurt Catalyst to wait until the meeting could have been safely carried out in front of an in-person audience.

But City Attorney Susanne Brown told the council that proper notice was given about the meeting, and the acceptance of public comments was done electronically. Brown said that if the council opted to not take up the townhome project appeal Tuesday night, that, legally, the planning commission’s Feb. 19 approval would stand.

Catalyst’s consultant Houston would not agree to a postponement.

“We feel this is a badly needed project in Concord … and we’d like to hear it this evening,” he said.

Several residents blasted the decision to move ahead Tuesday night; one called it “blasphemous.”

“You’re all elected officials – people want to engage in the democratic process,” Coll told the council. “I do not think a Danville developer should overrule the citizens of our community.”

Edi Birsan joined Obringer in voting against the project, saying that even a string of added conditions addressing turn lanes, security and parking weren’t enough to offset the lack of in-person public participation in the process.

Mayor Tim McGallian, Vice Mayor Dominic Aliano and Councilmember Laura Hoffmeister voted in favor of rejecting the appeal.

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