Developer, critical analysis begins over environmental report on major proposed Sierra development
December 28, 2012
TRUCKEE, Calif. – The Canyon Springs project that proposes to develop a portion of the eastern Truckee landscape has the potential to generate significant environmental impacts in a number of areas, consultants and planners have concluded.That potential is one of the major findings included in the draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposed residential neighborhood near Glenshire, which consists of 185 lots on approximately 108 acres, out of a total project area of 284 acres. Planning Center | DC&E, a recently merged planning and consulting company, spent the past year and a half preparing the document that was released Dec. 19.Considering the timing before the holidays, the developer and organizations interested in the project were hesitant this week to offer much analysis on the report’s findings.”We have not reviewed the 600+-page document thoroughly enough to make any comment on its findings yet,” said Leigh Golden, president of SOS Glenshire, one of the more outspoken organizations that’s in favor of protecting the property.Other organizations, including the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation and Glenshire/Devonshire Residents Association, shared a similar view, as did Christopher “Chip” Huck, one of property owners and project manager for Canyon Springs. “It is premature to provide substantial thoughts at this time as our review will be thorough,” Huck said. “… Overall, the project is consistent with zoning and general plan policies, and to that extent it appears the draft EIR has evaluated the project within those parameters.”
Some areas analyzed in the draft EIR include land use planning, population and housing, public services and recreation, aesthetics, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, noise, traffic, biological resources, and hazards and hazardous materials. A few environmental areas that could be “significantly” impacted by the project, according to the draft EIR, are:• Biological resources, in terms of removal of Jeffrey pine and snags or sagebrush habitats that could impact certain wildlife species, as well as the installation of wood piles for pedestrian footbridges possibly impacting site wetlands and non-wetland waters.• Hazards and hazardous materials, in terms of introducing homes in an area of “dense vegetation and forested land” that could expose people or structures to a “significant risk” of “loss, injury or death” from wildfires.• Hydrology and water quality, in terms of ground disturbance due to construction that may cause erosion to exposed surfaces during rain and snowmelt; creation of roads and houses and “slight changes” in local topography could possibly alter surface runoff rates and drainage patterns; and “urban runoff” from roads and driveways possibly exposing metals and “petroleum-based contaminants” to waterways.The draft EIR identifies several in-depth measures that, if taken, would reduce significant impacts to “less than significant.”For example, one measure includes the submission and approval by the Truckee Fire Protection District of a fire safety and fuel modification plan before building permits are issued. In terms of fire safety, there should be “adequate safety” for emergency fire equipment and people, “a point of attack or defense” from wildfires and strategic placing of defensible space.In terms of fuel modification, the draft EIR suggests the removal of underbrush and dead or dying tree branches a minimum of a 100 feet from the perimeter of structures, that “flammable vegetation” within 10 feet from roads and driveways should be removed, and that flammable vegetation within 30 feet of all structures should be removed.Areas analyzed and determined by the EIR to require no mitigation measures due their “less than significant” nature include: noise, agriculture and forestry, population and housing, greenhouse gas emissions, public services and recreation, utilities and service systems, aesthetics, and land use and planning.”We plan on thoroughly reviewing the project internally and with hired experts, as there has been past controversies with this proposed development in the community,” said executive director Alexis Ollar and board president Nikki Riley of MAPF, in a joint statement.SOS Glenshire will also hire experts to review the report, Golden said, while the Glenshire/Devonshire Residents Association may do the same, said Sally Lyon, chair of the association.
The public will have until March 1 to comment on the draft EIR – 28 days more than the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) required comment period of 45 days.”Part of the reason for that is we recognize it’s the holidays, it’s a busy time of year and it’s also a very lengthy document, and we want to make sure everyone has adequate time to review that,” said Terri McCracken, an associate with The Planning Center I DC&E, at a Dec. 18 public meeting about the project in Truckee Town Hall.To help with in review process, a public meeting will be held on Jan. 29, and McCracken, along with technical staff, will be present to answer questions about the draft EIR and its findings.”It’s important that when you do submit your comment that you do state a very specific concern,” McCracken said. “General things like ‘I don’t understand air quality,’ there’s very little I could do with that. But if you do have a specific concern about a mitigation, if you identify a page number, anything that makes a direct nexus to your concern and the environmental impact is really going to be helpful.”After March 1, the company will begin work on the final EIR, a document that responds to comments received on the environmental analysis and possibly includes revisions to the draft EIR if an environmental impact was missed or done incorrectly.The timeline for the completion of the final EIR is unknown at this time, said Denyelle Nishimori, senior planner for the town of Truckee.”It really depends on the amount and length of comments that the town receives on the draft, because we have to go through each and every comment very carefully and respond to them within that final document that we prepare,” she said. “So there’s not a definitive date that we can give you at this time.” Once the final EIR is completed, it will go before the town council and town’s planning commission for potential adoption and certification. McCracken said that is anticipated to take place early this spring. “It’s important to recognize that the certification of the EIR is not the same thing as project approval,” she added.