Placer County on Tuesday denied the appeals of the Town of Truckee and five environmental groups on a 726-home, gated, golf course project in the Martis Valley.The denial of the appeal on the Siller Ranch subdivision essentially approved a developer’s plans for more than 2,000 acres south of Schaffer Mill Road, pending certain changes by the county.Town of Truckee officials said the changes in the plan, which will definitively set the number of employee housing units required to be built by the developer, were positive amendments to the project. Before the board’s action, estimates where that the project would attract anywhere from 387 to 490 employees.The project developer, DMB Highlands Group, recently submitted plans for 84 employee housing units on its Hopkins Ranch project, near the intersection of Schaffer Mill Road and state Route 267.Meanwhile, members of Sierra Watch, which heads the environmental groups that appealed the project, said their next step will be to sue Placer County. The 2,177 acres of Siller Ranch sits on what the environmental groups have identified as priority conservation land, split by Martis Creek. Consultants for DMB Highlands Group said that more than 99 percent of the wetland areas would be left undisturbed by development, and that the property provided no significant habitat for spotted owls, willow flycatchers or the mountain yellow-legged frog.They also pointed to water studies done by the Tahoe Truckee Sanitation Agency that show no water quality effects from the Lahontan subdivision or other areas of the Martis Valley. But Tom Mooers, the executive director of Nevada City-based Sierra Watch, said that Siller Ranch was “total, extreme development that extends into all corners of the property.”Pointing to the estimated removal of over 25,000 trees for construction of the project, Mooers said that the current proposal should not be praised for reducing density compared to the 1975 guidelines for the valley, but should be criticized for failing to take into account the long-term goal of preserving the region’s resources.”We should compare the development to one standard and one standard alone – what is best for the future of Martis Valley,” said Mooers. John-Paul Harries, program director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, criticized the Placer County supervisors for turning a deaf ear to the public’s concern over the project.”It seems the only overriding consideration has been the pocketbook of the developer,” he said. “It seems the residents of Placer County have been voiceless.”Many residents of Placer County and Truckee criticized the proposal during public comment. No member of the public spoke in support of the project other than county employees and DMB Highlands employees.Ron Parr of DMB Highlands Group, said that the Siller Ranch project is sensible development in a location that has experienced timber harvesting over the last hundred years and already has roads leading to it.”Siller Ranch is not isolated, remote or sprawling development,” he said, countering claims made by Sierra Watch.Siller Ranch is tentatively scheduled to go back to the county supervisors for final approval on Dec. 7 in Auburn. At that meeting the supervisors will determine the exact number of employee housing units required, whether a trail from Truckee to Kings Beach can be completed with Siller Ranch being gated, and whether the project’s trails will allow access to moonlight meadow north of the project.
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