In October 2015, the developer brought an original set of plans to the County of Marin for review which proposed housing and a Branson School campus. The Strawberry Design Review Board (SDRB) held 3 well-attended public hearings at the Recreation Center and received public comment and input. At those hearings, the community and the SDRB expressed concerns about the initial application’s proposal for a commuter high school with a robust sports component, the size of the project, traffic generation, and its consistency with the Strawberry Community Plan.
Following these community hearings and with communications stalled between the community and the developer, I thought it was an opportune time to step back and think more broadly about how the Seminary property might serve the community now and in the future. To enable a wide ranging conversation, I convened a small group of local Strawberry residents to meet with me and a facilitator to explore ideas and concepts that might be appropriate for the Seminary property. Shortly after the group convened, Branson dropped out of the project, which helped open up the conversation.
While expressly not representing the community at large, discussion group members aired their own concerns and opinions about what they thought might be worthy of further discussion and exploration by the entire Strawberry community.
Many of the aspirational goals set out in the Strawberry Vision Document of 2015 were reflected in the residents’ group discussion, including finding uses for the Seminary property that:
The group explored various ideas including different types of housing, opportunities for multi-generational learning, artist live/work and studio arrangements, and a café open to locals. The group invited North Coast to its final two meetings to hear directly the range of concepts explored by the group and to share ideas.
In mid-June, North Coast held a Saturday Open House on the Seminary property, inviting the community to stroll through the former library, view posters about their concepts for the campus, and ask questions, share ideas, offer concerns and express opinions.
Information about the proposed project, including the latest submittal, is available from the Marin County Community Development Agency’s webpage titled “Projects Under Review,” under the Strawberry planning area tab, so that any interested member of the public can review the materials and see what’s being proposed.
The development application for the Seminary property will require detailed, exhaustive, independent environmental review. Environmental review is a comprehensive look at a proposal and how it may affect the environment. In this case, an environmental impact report (EIR) will be required and prepared by the County. The EIR will inform the decision-makers and the public of the significant environmental effects of the project, possible ways to minimize significant effects, and a reasonable range of alternatives to the project.
County planners will hold an initial scoping session to help define the areas requiring review and analysis. Aspects of environmental review include, among other areas, investigating the effect of the proposal on the hydrology, geology, traffic impacts, natural systems and other key aspects.
The approved 1953 Use Permit and 1984 Master Plan still govern the Seminary property and outline permitted uses, including a seminary - a graduate, educational use. The applicant, North Coast Land Holdings, has included an educational use in both its prior and revised applications. This proposed use will be considered and discussed in the public process as it unfolds.
The Strawberry community has expressed concerns about a traffic generating commuter high school at this location, and the public will have ample opportunities to examine and register their thoughts and concerns about any proposed academic use at the Seminary property as the review process goes forward.
The revised application still has a long way to go and will present many opportunities for public review and input. The Strawberry Design Review Board, whose members are local residents with meetings at Strawberry Recreation Center, will review the proposal and share their comments with the applicant, the public and County planning staff. These meetings are open to the public and provide an opportunity for everyone to share their views.
In addition, the EIR and the application will be reviewed by the Marin County Planning Commission and ultimately by the Marin County Board of Supervisors. These meetings also will be open to the public and provide an opportunity for everyone to comment and share their views.
If you can’t attend meetings in person, you may submit letters electronically or by regular mail. Also, the Marin County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors’ meetings are webcast so that you can view the meetings real time from your computer or Smart phone.
Informally, you are always welcome to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know your thoughts. The best way to stay in touch is to sign up here to receive updates on this application. Your engagement is important to help guide the future of this special property.