Windsor council OKs changes to Bell Village development

One of the largest mixed-use projects ever proposed in Windsor -#8212; complete with an Oliver’s supermarket as the anchor tenant -#8212; is poised to break ground in early June.

Developers of Bell Village on Wednesday night received the final approval they were looking for from the Town Council to make some changes to the project, which consists of 387 multifamily dwellings and 83,500 square feet of commercial space.

“We’ll make you proud,” developer Komron Shahhosseini told council members after they granted a half-dozen modifications to his company’s $100 million project planned on 25 acres adjacent to the Town Green, between Highway 101 and Old Redwood Highway.

Getting Oliver’s Market represents a long-sought goal for Windsor officials, who have wanted a supermarket on the west side of the freeway to complement Safeway and Raley’s stores on the east side of town.

“We’re very excited about coming to Windsor,” Oliver’s General Manager Tom Scott told the council. “We must have received hundreds of phone calls at the office asking, ‘When are you opening? What’s going on?’ expressing excitement.”

“This will be a wonderful addition to the town. This will only add to the experience that people get on the Town Green,” said Councilman Sam Salmon, who said the mixed residential-commercial project will bring more people downtown and provide “24/7” vibrancy.

Salmon, along with other council members, nevertheless expressed some misgivings in approving changes to the project, including dropping 77 very-low-income units from the mix of apartments and townhomes.

Councilwoman Deb Fudge said “it’s hard to lose the affordable housing,” but said that to move the project forward she was willing to grant the request of the developer, Oakmont Senior Living, which is known primarily for developing retirement communities.

David Grabill, head of the Sonoma County Housing Advocacy Group, also expressed disappointment in the change, saying the low-income housing was promised in part to offset what was lost when the Windsorland trailer and mobile home park was razed to make way for Bell Village.

Developers got permission to drop construction of the 77 very-low-income units and instead contribute about $1 million in fees toward Windsor’s affordable-housing fund. The company said it was requesting the change given current economic realities and the loss of redevelopment programs that subsidized affordable housing construction.

But Oakmont Senior Living still plans to build 77 units of moderate-income housing, which would revert to market rate after 10 years.

All of the project’s 387 units will be rentals.

The company also obtained permission from the council to drop one of the major tenants, a pharmacy, and lease out the 12,000-square-foot space to other businesses.

To secure the needed financing, developers also obtained approval to build the commercial portion prior to the residential portion, instead of the original phasing that called for residences being constructed first.

Council members also agreed to let the community development director approve a number of details -#8212; such as signage, landscaping, building colors and elevation -#8212; instead of requiring the developer to return for public hearings at the Planning Commission.

Oliver’s Scott told the council that the company had invested a lot of resources in the project already, including equipment that it had in storage for more than a year, and urged the council to move forward.

“We need to fish or cut bait,” he said. “There are other opportunities available to us. Our company is ready to grow.”

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