Plan for Oakdale townhouses put on hold

OAKDALE -- A plan to build 14 two-unit town houses was put on hold Monday when the City Council voted 5-0 to send it back to the Planning Commission with some advice to the builder.

Mayor Farrell Jackson suggested that Richard Murdoch revise his project, eliminating multistory units that would overlook single-family homes adjacent to the Cost Less shopping center.

More than a dozen residents encouraged the council to support the Planning Commission's unanimous decision two weeks ago to reject the project. Many said the center's owner has done little to improve the commercial site, despite their constant pleas.

The project, next to Highway 120 in north Oakdale, would put multistory units on the center's west and south perimeters. It also would require the city to rezone nearly four acres from commercial to residential units.

Residents who complained live west of the center. No one specifically spoke against the units to the south, where they'd bump up against existing rental units.

Murdoch said the cost of providing water, electricity and other services might not be feasible if only half the units are built. He agreed to meet with the Planning Commission in a few weeks with a revised project in hand.

If anything is wrong with the project, Murdoch said, it might be that the town houses are "too high end." He guaranteed that the project would not lead to blight: "I wouldn't be afraid to have these next to my house."

Units would initially be rented for $1,500 to $2,300 a month plus monthly maintenance fees, but he promised they would eventually be sold by the owners -- two San Francisco-based companies.

Those companies own the 12-acre shopping center, which also caught the ire of neighbors. Some residents want the shopping center renovated before allowing the project to go forward.

"The center needs a remodel. It looks terrible," said Carol Estes, whose home backs up to the center. "The owners need to take care of businesses (in the center) before doing anything else."

Murdoch's announcement that the town houses would be rentals, rather than owner-occupied, caught residents and even the mayor by surprise.

"I was under the impression they would be ... sold," said Jackson, adding that the decision to rent them affects his decision.

Residents worry the units will deteriorate over time because they will not be owner-occupied.

"I don't think rentals will help that area. It's awfully tight back there," said Nancy Freitas, who lives adjacent to the center. "I'm going to have two homes stacked up on my backyard fence."

Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at restrada@modbee.com or 578-2304.