Fair Oaks residents were relieved to hear this week that developers were scrapping plans to build 282 condominium units on a former piece of Gum Ranch at the corner of Madison and Kenneth avenues.
The 16-acre vacant parcel next to Bella Vista High School has long been part of an ongoing debate over what to do with the 100-plus-acre Gum Ranch property, which has seen development proposals come and go in the past two decades. The latest plan was quickly undone by grassroots opposition.
"That's wonderful news and a testament to people being able to get something done," said Diane Carlson, a Fair Oaks resident who opposed the project.
Here's what happened:
After other development proposals fizzled, Irvine-based developer MBK Homes bought the corner parcel in 2007. It initially proposed building 89 single-family homes and a park at the site, but the housing crash put those plans on hold.
In recent weeks, MBK submitted a revised proposal to Sacramento County to build condos on the site. Neighbors got wind of the change of plans and quickly spread the word.
On Oct. 3, about 160 opponents turned out for a meeting of the Fair Oaks Community Planning and Advisory Council, which was set to hear from MBK.
They expressed concerns about traffic congestion and worried that the condos wouldn't fit with surrounding streets of suburban homes.
In response, MBK consultant Brian Holloway arranged an informal meeting at the project site early Tuesday evening.
Many of the four dozen residents who arrived carried picket signs. One read "No to townhouses. Save the neighborhood." Another read "282 apartments = traffic."
But instead of trying to sell them on the project, Holloway told them it was "dead" because of community opposition. "We didn't have the support we thought we had," he said later.
Holloway broke the news to the crowd and then engaged in a polite question-and- answer session for nearly an hour. The group stood in the dust and weeds of housing lots that were graded years ago but never saw construction.
Holloway said it was still too early to say what MBK might do with the property.
"It's only been a few days," he said.
Residents said they planned to remain vigilant and wanted to ensure whatever was built at Gum Ranch would be a good fit for the neighborhood.
Some said they would still like to see single-family homes and a park built.
Dan May, who lives nearby, said he had worried the condominiums would devalue area homes.
"We're happy we got it put on hold," May said. "But how do we know in five years it's not going to pop up again?"