Priory approved with conditions

By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eurcharist will have a Loomis priory, now that the planning commission has approved the project. Local resident John O’Brien said of the sisters during public comment, “We find their presence in our community graceful, pleasant and very visible. They bring a presence here that will be very positive.” The priory approval includes 108 conditions, many of which are standard, boiler-plate for any new projects, but others are specific to the priory, including a last minute add-on that would require the sisters to notify the town for a review if the sisters take the property out of agricultural use, even though the town holds no agricultural easement on the property. Another condition was originally included that the town was to be notified when the sisters had their four family days each year at the priory, but Rick Angelocci, town manager, said they would only have to notify the town if they had special events of a fair-like nature with outside vendors, and those would be limited to four per year. John Griffin, spokesman for the sisters, said they would not hold any fair-like events at the priory. The priory will also not be allowed to operate any pre-kindergarten to 12th grade school on the site, which would require additional review and approval by the town. The project proponents did successfully reduce the number of parking spaces from 130 required by the town to 53, because the sisters do not have their own vehicles and travel in groups. The town originally asked the sisters to widen Rocklin Road to accommodate a 2-foot wide bike lane plus a 6-foot decomposed granite equestrian and hiking path along both Barton and Rocklin roads. It was pointed out that the town would ultimately be responsible for maintaining a trail and the topography along Rocklin Road would require cutting down trees, disturbing wetlands and adding fill to put in a section of trail that has no connectivity to other trails. Loomis Town Manager Rick Angelocci, commissioners amended the conditions "to give the applicants the option of the 6-foot asphalt widening along both Barton and Rocklin or do six feeet of asphalt along Rocklin and two feet of Class KKK bike trail along Barton, with a 6-foot DG path." During public comment numerous people spoke in favor of having a bike trail on Rocklin Road, while many others opposed the sisters having to pay for it. Numerous comments opposing the $660,000 fees imposed on the sisters for having to cut down 200 trees, even though they planned to plant 400 to replace them. Planning commissioner Mike Hogan pointed out that the fees were imposed by the town’s tree ordinance which was approved by the Loomis Town Council in 2003. Janet Thew, planning commission chairperson, said, “We’ve taken a lot of heat for how closely we’ve scrutinized this project.” It’s our job to scrutinize projects in Loomis. We’re just trying to do our job. We have to think about what Loomis will be in 10 years.” The commission approved the priory 4-0, with commissioner Pat Miller absent.