The idea of condominiums near a country club surrounded by estate homes was too much for Stanislaus County planning commissioners, who voted 6-1 Thursday against the proposal.
Neighbors spoke passionately on both sides in the three-hour hearing, and could again next month when the county Board of Supervisors makes a final decision on the Villas at Del Rio.
"I think it's a good project; I think it's in the wrong place," said Commissioner Robert Crabtree, a retired real estate broker. Several others on the panel agreed, one calling the proposal "beautiful" and another "gorgeous" but still voting against it.
Carl Wesenberg hopes to build 16 town homes with shared walls and two other homes for a total of 18 on 4.3 acres, or more than four units per acre, while Del Rio's growth plan calls for no more than two per acre. All would be large, single- story homes with room for a golf cart in the garage, civil engineer Dave Romano said.
Real estate agent Jocelyn Singh, who lives in Del Rio, said she has helped clients move when they no longer can care for large homes and huge lots.
"I feel there is a need," she said.
Dennis Wittchow said he maintains a half-acre yard and a 4,400-square-foot, two-story home inhabited by only him and his wife.
"We would love to have the opportunity to downsize without leaving Del Rio," he said.
Sean Carroll said he stands "ready, willing and able to write the deposit check" for his aging mother, who faces hip surgery. "Stairs are not an option," he said, and the few tri-level condominiums already in Del Rio have two sets of staircases each.
"I had a great childhood," said Carrie Cardoza Bordona, who grew up across from those condos and who now does public relations work for Wesenberg. "It didn't seem like they were conflicting," she said.
Their arguments swayed Commissioner Steven Boyd, who said, "Personally, I think the project makes great sense."
The others didn't.
"If it were elsewhere, I would be voting to approve," said Commissioner Ken Buehner.
The growth plan, adopted 20 years ago, has served the exclusive community well, said Commissioner Ronald Peterson.
They were joined in voting "no" by Crabtree, Marc Etchebarne, Richard Gibson and Annabel Gammon. She suggested that the 1992 plan be overhauled rather than granting exceptions.
They recommended that county supervisors deny the project, but supervisors have the authority to ignore the Planning Commission.
An hour or so before, resident Pam Rozycki told commissioners, "Please realize that they're trying to force something down your throat that will hurt this community."
William Mussman said, "This will deteriorate the neighborhood I love. The reason I moved to that area is being threatened."
"We like where we live and we want to defend it," said Will Iffland.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.