SANTA CRUZ — A citizens group in Aptos has filed a lawsuit against the developers of the Aptos Village project, as well as the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, accusing them of eliminating agreed upon public areas from the plan’s Final Map.
The mixed-use redevelopment project, located on 11.5 acres in the heart of Aptos along Soquel Drive and Trout Gulch Road, was initially adopted in 2010 and given final approval on Dec. 8. The plan, as described by the developer, includes six small homes, 11 townhouses and 52 apartments, along with 75,000 square feet of retail and office space, a village green and a small park. New Leaf Community Market is to anchor the retail area. The entrance to Forest of Nisene Marks State Park will also be improved and the historic Hihn Apple Barn is to be restored.
“Nestled between trees and the ocean, this traditional, pedestrian-friendly town square provides timeless architecture and small town charm that harkens back to another era, while providing all the luxury and energy efficiency of today,” the development is described by Barry Swensen Builders on its theaptosvillage.com website.
County supervisors approved the Final Map on Dec. 8, but according to the complaint, filed by We Are Aptos in Santa Cruz County Superior Court on March 2, it differs from what was initially approved. Many of the common areas appearing on the Tentative Map are not on the Final Map, including a promised future county park. As a result, the Final Map fails to comply with local and state regulations regarding subdivisions.
“This lawsuit is not intended to stop the development of the Aptos Village Project, but is instead intended to ensure that all amenities and other Project components are implemented as promised,” the complaint states.
According to its website, We Are Aptos is a community group formed by residents who are opposed to the proposed Aptos Village development. “Although beautiful, the grandness is far too large for quaint Aptos Village,” the site states. It lists traffic, water and safety as its top concerns.
Aptos resident Becky Steinbruner, who has spoken for the group to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, said she’d been advised by the group’s lawyer, William Parkin, not to say anything about the case when called.
“I’m not against building something there, but not what is being proposed,” she said. “It disgusts me.”
Parkin was much more diplomatic.
“We just want to make sure that everything that was promised is included,” he said.
Parkin explained that land along Soquel Drive that had been previously designated as a common area for things like public walkways and parking, had been redesigned so that buildings could be constructed out to the railroad tracks, or possibly private parking put there. This had been done in spots throughout the Final Map, he said, but the biggest problem is that the parcel of land in the back of the project that was to be donated by the developer for a county park is no longer on the map.
It does mention the park. In small print, in the non-title notes of the Final Map, it states that the “adjoining parcel APN 041-011-09 is to be offered for dedication to the County of Santa Cruz for park purposes. This offer shall be made by separate document as part of the future phase.”
Parkin said that park should be clearly denoted on the map, and if it is to be part of a future phase, the developers were supposed to post a bond for the appraised value of the land for the park.
“The developers were not required to pay normal park fees because they were supposed to donate this land for a park,” he said. “The developers should not be able to avoid park fees and avoid the dedication of the park. This is just about imposing conditions that were agreed on and that the amenities that were promised are included.”
County Supervisor Zach Friend emailed from Sacramento that he could not immediately comment on this story. Santa Cruz County Counsel Communications Director Jason Hoppin said he is currently working on a response. A spokesperson for Barry Swenson Builders was also working on a response.