Felton Meadow sold to Mount Hermon
by Peter Burke
May 24, 2012 | 3084 views | 11 11 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Felton Meadow, once slated for a low-income housing development, was purchased last week by Mount Hermon, a Christian conference center and residential community. Plans for the space have not yet been announced. Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
Felton Meadow, once slated for a low-income housing development, was purchased last week by Mount Hermon, a Christian conference center and residential community. Plans for the space have not yet been announced. Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
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Mount Hermon Association has purchased the 14.8-acre Felton meadow, ensuring that an ill-fated affordable housing project once slated for the area will not happen.

Escrow closed May 16 on the property along Conference Drive and the Felton Faire shopping center, and Mount Hermon announced the purchase Friday, May 18.

“Virtually everybody we’ve talked to are very excited about this, including people outside the community, especially given the uses we have in mind,” said Alden Johanson, acting director of Mount Hermon, a Christian conference center and community.

Johanson was reluctant to speak about those possible land uses, however, saying the conference center’s staff was still forming plans.

“We don’t expect to be doing any significant builds on the property,” Johanson said. “Nothing comparable to the affordable housing (project).”

He said the land would be used for recreational purposes and would be kept mostly green and scenic.

Mount Hermon must amend its master plan to include the 14.8-acre meadow that extends the 440-acre community’s boundaries across East Zayante Road to the edge of the Felton Faire shopping center.

The organization hopes to submit plans to the county by the end of the year.

The meadow includes several acres of relatively flat ground — something of which Mount Hermon had very little.

“There are some really good ideas I think the public will be comfortable with,” Johanson said.

Steve Homan, a Bonny Doon resident and a retired environmental health specialist who has taken a keen interest in the meadow, said he was pleased with the purchase.

“I am sure that the Mount Hermon Association will be excellent stewards of this special and historic meadow, its springs, its micro-wetlands, and its protected oak woodland area,” Homan said.

Homan said maps from the mid-1800s showed the meadow as a gateway to the Zayante Rancho and a steam engine that might have powered a sawmill.

“One can envision that indigenous Americans likely used the meadow, the springs and the fisheries of Zayante Creek and the San Lorenzo River to their advantage,” he said. “It is a special place.”

The purchase ends the involvement of South County Housing Corp. and Santa Cruz County with the property.

The county had slated the meadow for low-income housing in 2005 and wound up sinking $2.1 million into loans and settlements to satisfy contractual agreements with South County. The company bought the property in 2006 to build the low-income housing.

Public pressure related to money the county spent before the completion of environmental studies derailed the project, and it was finally canceled in March, when county supervisors agreed to let South County sell the property for less than it owed.

South County officials then approached Mount Hermon leaders about buying the meadow.

Mount Hermon has expanded in the past decade with the acquisition of Whisper Canyon near Paso Robles in 2003 and Kidder Creek near the Oregon border in 2004.

The Felton meadow is the first large expansion of its grounds in recent years.

Leaders have not said whether the meadow would be open to the community.

“Public usage may be considered but has not yet been determined,” Johanson said.

The Press-Banner was unable to determine the purchase price this week, because the pertinent documents had not yet been processed by the county.

Comments
(11)
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A. Christian
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May 31, 2012
I guess they pay such low wages to their workers and are tax exempt so that they can afford to buy more and more land?

"you cannot serve God AND wealth" (Matthew 6:24)
Bill Smallman
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May 25, 2012
I think this is fantastic, and SLVCORE I applaud, and we would of seen big problems had the Zayante Meadows project been built. I'm not sure if there is enough room for campground. We lived in Mt Hermon, my wife bought a house there, and it is a fantastic neighborhood. I did think that perhaps they could make an L- shaped extension to Felton Faire to include perhaps a restaurant with a back deck facing the meadow, just to perhaps help with the finances. Yes, the septic issue is huge, and I cannot fathom why our County leaders wasted 2 million. I am really interested in ways that we can eliminate water pollution, conserve water, return the river to pristine conditions, etc etc. Ya! I'm so glad this land is not going to be developed!
Steve Homan
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May 26, 2012
I can envision tent camping, but not trailer or RV camping. I can imagine open space, playing fields, some sort of indoor/outdoor classroom, maybe a fire circle or mini-amphitheater. The most important factor here is to keep the sewage flow low, so that it can be disposed of in the small "dryer" area, away from the springs and micro-wetlands, without killing the oaks of the oak woodland area which are a major feature of the site. There is not a large area dry enough for a major sewage disposal system.

Steve Homan
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May 29, 2012
One theory of why the County went down this road for so long is that the previous Live Oak/Soquel Supervisor (Not Supv. Leopold) was upset with the number of affordable housing projects in her district. It was rumored that she vowed not to approve any more projects until each Supervisor had such a project in his district. That put the RDA and Planners on a mission to get something going. The previous owners of the property were turned away after initial review of preliminary septic studies. South County Housing, Inc. may have been encouraged by the County with promises of "We will make it happen."
Mom Votes
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May 29, 2012
That's an insufficient reason to pour millions of dollars through a developer's self-serving hands.
Steve Homan
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June 03, 2012
I agree with Mom Votes. The County and the developer were both too stubborn too long. It was a mistake from the beginning. Logical people would have pulled the plug before this started or shortly thereafter.
Candace Quinn
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May 25, 2012
Just look at that picture of the meadow. We dodged the proverbial bullet. It would have dramatically changed the nature of our town.
Steve Homan
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May 25, 2012
It was Beth and Mary and Robin and their SLV/Core friends who did the most work on this and deserve the credit. I congratulate Felton on prevailing against a faulty idea.
Nell Trent
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May 25, 2012
Best news ever! Thank you Beth and Steve for leading thousands of people in fighting that mess of a housing project. Great to see conservation and intelligent stewardship of that land. Finally.
Beth Hollenbeck
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May 24, 2012
This is very good news. We hope Mt Hermon will consider keeping the pathway through the meadow open as a safe route to walk for local residents that have used it for the past 50 years. Neighbors that surround the meadow have always kept their property "open" for people to walk through in a safety effort to keep pedestrians off Zayante.

It is a pristine piece of property and we agree with Steve Homan that Mt Hermon will be "excellent stewards of this special and historic meadow, its springs, its micro-wetlands, and its protected oak woodland area."

Steve Homan
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May 25, 2012
Mary Andersen, Beth Hollenbeck, and Robin Samuels to be specific.


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