Foothills Sentry Page 2 And, Thank you! Because of our loyal customers, Jadtec has been able to keep our local, small business open to install, service and monitor commercial/residential alarm systems and cameras. We truly appreciate your business. Give us a call to see what we can do for you. C H E E R S TO A BRIGHTER 2021! 714 282 0828 | jadtec.com aco 4202 January 2021 Ronald McDonald House expansion plan meets resistance at DRC By Tina Richards Expansion plans for Ronald McDonald House (RMH) were rejected by Orange’s Design Re- view Committee (DRC) because they failed to meet standards and design criteria established to guide development in Old Towne. Ronald McDonald House, lo- cated at 383 S. Batavia on the western border of the Old Towne Historic District, wants to expand from 21 rooms to 44 to meet a growing demand for its services. The nonprofit houses families who come to the area because they have sick children in local hospitals. The expansion includes a 17,325-sq.-ft., 2.5-story addition, built over a ground-level parking lot. A historic house at the rear of the property, now empty, would be converted into administrative space. History repeats? The existing 12,580-sq.-ft. Ronald McDonald House was built in 1989, before Old Towne had been listed on the National Historic Register and design stan- dards were codified. It sits across the street from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange complex, in a neighborhood of residences, of- fices and institutional buildings. A Conditional Use Permit al- lowed it to be three stories. The DRC’s mandate is to en- sure new construction follows city guidelines and standards, and that it is compatible with the neighborhood. The question in this case is, compatible with what? The area is a mix of pro- tected historic properties and “non-contributing” structures that predate the Old Towne designa- tion and design standards. City planning staff determined that the expansion was compatible with the institutional buildings across the street and the overall neigh- borhood, and that the 1989 CUP allowed it to exceed the 30-ft. height dictated by historic district standards. The Dec. 16 review meet- ing was RMH’s third pass at the DRC. The committee found the original plans to be too large in terms of scale, height and mass, infringed on the privacy of neigh- bors and was insufficiently land- scaped. The RMH architectural team addressed those issues with revised plans modified from three full stories to two and a half, windows placed to restrict views into neighboring properties and additional landscaping for more privacy, screening and aesthetics. The wrong place The RMH team was applauded by committee members for their willingness to work with the DRC to meet Old Towne design stan- dards. “They’ve done everything to make this approvable,” mem- ber Tim McCormack acknowl- OPA general meeting postponed The Orange Park Associa- tion annual general membership meeting has been rescheduled to Saturday, Feb. 20 due to Corona- virus. The meeting will be held at Salem Lutheran Church, 6500 E. Santiago Canyon Road, begin- ning with coffee and donuts at 8 a.m. The meeting will commence at 9 a.m. There are three director seats to be filled by membership vote. edged, “but context is important.” Committee member Anne Mc- Dermott noted that two historic houses were demolished to make room for the original Ronald McDonald House and wondered if, given the design standards in place now, is it likely the house would have been built. The an- swer from city staff was a reluc- tant “no.” DRC member Robert Imboden expressed his continuing con- cerns with the setback, height and scale of the expanded RMH, and its visible tuck-under parking, which, he noted, is not an early 20th century design element. He said he was basing his judgment on historic properties, not the neighboring properties that were built prior to adopted standards. The wrong time “The house would not have a chance of being approved to- day,” he said. “But because it was approved 35 years ago, we’re supposed to continue on with that. How could a CUP foresee changes and be grandfathered on to the next project? That’s the very reason we have design standards. What is the purpose of standards if we approve a project that doesn’t meet them? It seems contrary to the job we’re required to do.” Tim MCormack agreed. “If this were in another area, with more space, it wouldn’t be on stilts, hovering above ground, with cars underneath it.” Acknowledging the “remarkable and astonish- ing” work of Ronald McDonald House, he cautioned that the ex- panded RMH program is too big for this particular site. “It needs to fit into the neighborhood,” he said. “We have to respect Old Towne. Five years from now, we’d look back and say, my gosh why did we do this.” Mission vs. mass “I think the world of Ronald McDonald House and its mis- sion,” DRC Chair Mary Anne Skorpanich stressed. “I’m proud to have it in our community. It pains me to concur with the other comments about compatibility. But the existing building is the problem. It’s too big. The neigh- bors already have a huge build- ing looming over their property. Adding an expansion to that? I don’t know anyone who would want that for their property.” Committee Vice Chair Carol Fox was the lone dissenter. She said that she found the plans com- patible, based on the RMH’s rela- tionship with the structures across the street and that many of the neighboring properties were not considered historic resources. The vote was 4-1 to recommend denial of the project. The DRC is advisory only; it has no author- ity over the outcome of a project. It has also been under fire from some city officials who believe its review is largely overkill, dupli- cative, and that the process could be handled by the city’s director of community development. The next step for the Ronald McDonald House is the planning commission. Ronald McDonald House wants to add a 17,325-sq.-ft. expansion to its existing 12,580-sq.-ft. footprint. The addition would be built above a ground-level parking lot.