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Ecovillage project suspended; college pursuing other options

ANGWIN – Pacific Union College’s board of trustees has voted to end the college’s consulting contract with Triad Communities and instead pursue opportunities for the property outside of an Ecovillage project.

“This decision comes after more than a year of careful study and consideration,” said Dr. Heather Knight, president of the college, who spent much of her first year on the job assessing the development project. “After speaking with various community leaders and given the current economic landscape, I feel this is not the best plan for PUC right now.”

Pacific Union College has been working with Triad Communities Ltd. since 2006 when the board of trustees signed a contract to have Triad explore options for developing the college’s property.

In July of 2009, the college announced it was taking the lead in gaining entitlements for a proposed 380-unit Ecovillage. The project had been scaled back from 1,600 units to 600 to the 380. At the time, Triad scaled the project back due to economic reasons.

Also at the time, the college board was trying to figure out how to proceed with the sale of 560 surplus acres upon any project approval, including a sale to Triad.

The school initially started the development plan to raise as much as $80 million for an endowment.

Then in November of last year, Curt Johansan, executive vice president of Triad, said the draft EIR would not be released until at least January.

“That document will be representative of what we believe will be the most sustainable community in the United States,” he said at the time.

He said the report would include several smaller alternative projects to the 380 units.

One was from the group “Save Rural Angwin” and was a 191-unit version. Another from the county was called the Environmentally Superior plan and would have been roughly 250 units.

Now that Triad is no longer involved, the college said it is still committed to selling land that is not currently in use by the college and that is considered non-essential to its core mission.

This is in accordance with a 2002 board resolution to liquidate non-essential assets to ensure that the college has resources to meet its current financial obligations, as well as to achieve its long-term financial objectives for its future growth and development. These goals include growing the college’s endowment, providing more scholarships for students, increasing faculty and staff compensation and enhancing the campus infrastructure and facilities.

The board has decided that selected property surrounding and east of the airport will be sold, as is, through a broker with appropriate restrictions and covenants created to obtain essential uses for the college such as water and recreational trails. The environmental impact report has been suspended, and PUC retains the county’s approval to build 191 housing units, as necessary, at the appropriate time.

Dr. Knight will be analyzing the housing needs of both the college and St. Helena Hospital before developing plans in this regard. She said she hopes to continue dialogue with the community to explore ways in which to strengthen the school's linkages and service to the surrounding community.

“We want to work with our neighbors in Angwin and the Napa Valley to ensure that we remain good neighbors while securing the college’s future into perpetuity,” said Dr. Knight.