The Dublin City Council approved a resolution for Planned Development zoning and a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) that will enable Valley Christian Center (VCC) to carry out a planned 15-year expansion of its complex. The plan will add an amphitheater and a lighted, amplified athletic field on 50 acres at 7500 Inspiration Drive.

The vote at the Feb. 5 meeting was 3-2, with Mayor David Haubert, Vice-mayor Melissa Hernandez and Councilmember Jean Josey backing Haubert’s motion. Councilmembers Arun Goel and Shawn Kumagai were opposed.

The proposal, introduced last April as an informational item, touched off opposition among neighbors. Some of them formed the West Dublin Alliance (WDA). They retained attorney Stuart Flashman as counsel. Although VCC has made many adjustments to the plan since the public first saw it, vocal opponents still addressed the council at the Feb. 5 meeting.

Before the meeting began, the council met in closed session to discuss potential litigation, a topic listed next to Flashman’s name. No action was announced after the closed session.

Flashman told a reporter via email over the weekend that he won’t know whether or not he would file a lawsuit. He needs to meet with his clients to discuss the option. “However, the City Council majority clearly doesn’t understand its obligation under CEQA,” he noted.

Flashman contends that since the original expansion plan was proposed in 2003, VCC has made significant changes. VCC should respond to the changes with an EIR showing impact mitigations. The MND, a less-detailed document, is not adequate to cover the changes, although a series of meetings between church officials and neighbors has resulted in modified impacts concerning lighting and sound at the athletic field, said Flashman.

City Attorney John Bakker stated that in his opinion, the MND has satisfied the requirements, with the adjustments made by the church and studies by consultants.

The expansion plan shows a 600-seat football stadium with all of the seating on one side of the field. That unusual configuration will allow the two loudspeakers to be focused on only one side of the field, at the level of the stands and close to them, in an effort to keep the sound away from neighbors.

The lighting was modified after church representatives met with neighbors and gave them tours of the entire site. The development will include a building designed as 2-stories, but will now be a single story, and moved to another spot on the site.

A plaza and the amphitheater, with seating limited to 450, are also slated for construction. However, some neighbors said the number was still too high.

In supporting Haubert’s motion, Hernandez noted that Dublin has sports fields at Dublin Sports Park, Dublin High School, Fallon Sports Park and Emerald Glen Park. All have adjacent homes. “The city sets standards. We can allow Valley Christian to have a sports complex, and find middle ground with surrounding homes. We can restrict and limit the hours they can operate based on policy guidelines,” said Hernandez.

“Has the city done its job with the EIR? We truly have. Are we going up there to conduct another sound study when it’s not part of our regulation? I feel that staff has done its due diligence,” said Hernandez.

In explaining his vote, Haubert said, “The quality of life is always a concern for the Dublin City Council.” However, in the 15-year development of the plan, there will be “no guarantee that a sound-free quality of life will continue to exist in the neighborhood. VCC complies with allowable uses in the General Plan.”

Haubert stated that every measured impact falls within Dublin’s ordinance parameters. “It’s a clear and easy decision. It’s compliant with CEQA analysis.”

Kumagai disagreed with Haubert. He noted that the potential volume of sound from future football games, and also athletic practices, which would use lights, but not sound, did not have enough mitigation to persuade him that many of the neighbors would not be annoyed.

Haubert replied, “If you say, ‘Mitigate until all are satisfied,’ you will never get the project done.”

Haubert said that he wants to support the staff’s recommendation for approval. However, Kumagai said that he did not “like the implication that we are not supporting the staff if we vote ‘no.’”

Goel also that not enough had been done to mitigate sound. He had concerns about traffic circulation in the neighborhood, an issue raised by some neighbors.

Goel noted that by his count, VCC made 15 changes to its plan since the initial presentation last April, when many neighbors said they had not been aware of the plan. Two public hearings followed. They were continued so that VCC officials could meet with neighbors and conduct tours of the site.

“Were they (the plan changes) in the right direction? It’s questionable.”

Opinions were voiced on both sides from the audience, including those from several neighbors who said they now were convinced the plan would be satisfactory. However, most neighbors who testified said the plan failed on sound, lighting and traffic.

A high number of VCC members — at least twice the number of opponents — spoke. They told the council how much good the school has done for students. They cited the staff report’s recommendation for approval.

However, Goel said that the hearing was not about VCC, whose principal he complimented for doing a good job as an educator. “It’s about a project, not about the church, or about supporting staff,” said Goel.

Goel also noted that the city advice on traffic did not include a look at projected traffic from football games, “but I heard concern about it from the public.”

Josey said she agreed with Kumagai and Goel about the noise levels being able to be heard by some neighbors. She lives in the neighborhood, although more than 1000 feet away from the property.

“I know how the sound bounces up there. It can be right next to you, and you barely hear those with whom you are speaking, or (you could be) farther down, and hear well.”

Josey said that she checked locations herself at different times. She concluded that some neighbors near the field and others farther away will hear loudspeakers. “I don’t believe the noise will rise to the levels that our ordinances say are significant,” added Josey.

Josey said she also was not worried about traffic after games. She works at Dublin High School. The post-game exodus is large there, because of the high enrollment level, which records show is a little over 2200 students. VCC will be a much smaller operation at build-out.

COUNCIL ADJOURNS IN MEMORY OF KUMAGAI FRIEND

As usual, the council adjourned in memory of Army Staff Sergeant Sean Diamond of Dublin, who lost his life in a roadside bomb explosion in 2009 in Iraq.

At the close of the Feb. 5 meeting, the council also honored the memory of Navy Chief Warrant Officer Shannon Kent of Pine Plains, N.Y., and two other fallen companions who were killed in the bombing of a cafe in northern Syria. Kent was Kumagai’s former colleague and friend in Navy service.

Kent, the mother of two sons, served as a linguists working in Syria in an area formerly controlled by ISIS, but liberated in 2016. The three, who included Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathon Farmer of Florida, a civilian employee, and former Green Beret Scott Wirtz of St. Louis, were scheduled to meet with local leaders. The bomb also killed 13 others in a market area near the cafe, according to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.