Eaglewood reaches agreement with conservationists | SierraSun.com

Eaglewood reaches agreement with conservationists

David Bunker
Sierra Sun
Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra SunJohn Eaton, president of the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, stands in the foggy Martis Valley Tuesday morning. Eaton's organization is one fo the groups trying to preserve open space and limit development in the valley.
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Conservationists and a Martis Valley developer have reached an agreement that is expected to raise $8 million for land preservation in the valley over the next 20 years.

The negotiations over Eaglewood, a 462-home golf course development, began more than a year ago and ended this week with the conservation groups agreeing not to sue the project in exchange for land preservation contributions.

With the Eaglewood agreement, the conservation groups have now taken action on all the Martis Valley projects that have received approval from Placer County. The groups sued Hopkins Ranch and Siller Ranch, and reached agreements with the developers of Northstar-at-Tahoe and Eaglewood.

“We have two examples of success where we have been able to work with developers to preserve habitat,” said John Eaton, president of Truckee-based Mountain Area Preservation Foundation.

At Eaglewood, each property sale will raise money that will go to the Truckee Donner Land Trust to buy open space in the Martis Valley. For the first eight years, three quarters of a percent of the sale will go toward buying open space. For the next 17 years, one half of a percent will be contributed. And for the last five years, a quarter of a percent will be donated.

Eaglewood developer Martis Valley Associates, which expects to begin construction on its project this year, said the agreement will benefit Eaglewood residents, as well as the entire region.

“In our view you have to preserve the area and add benefit to the area,” said Mark Richardson, president of Martis Valley Associates.

Richardson said he is optimistic that no matter what the outcome of the lawsuit against Placer County’s Martis Valley Community Plan ” a document that serves as a blueprint for all development in the valley ” Eaglewood will stand as it was approved by Placer County last year.

“We have an approved project that is supported by the conservation groups now,” Richardson said, adding that the Town of Truckee and the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe have both supported Eaglewood.

Conservationists have long held that the Martis Valley Community Plan is not a valid blueprint for the valley. So in absence of a county plan that the groups feel strikes a compromise between development and land preservation, the conservation groups have executed their own strategy with a quiet efficiency.

By brokering transfer fee agreements with developers in the valley, Sierra Watch, Mountain Area Preservation Foundation and their allies are amassing a pot of money that can be used by the Truckee Donner Land Trust to purchase land that they feel should be preserved for wildlife habitat, recreation and open space.

“The people who are going to develop portions of the Martis Valley need to take responsibility to protect other parts of the valley,” said Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers.

Other developments, which propose building on land deemed highly valuable as habitat or because of wetlands, have been sued when negotiations have failed to come up with a plan that protects that land.

And as the group of five regional conservation groups follow success with success, developers become more willing to work with the nonprofits.

“With our increasing success I think people understand that any development will come under increased scrutiny,” Mooers said.

And the environmental groups hope this increased scrutiny, along with the transfer fee money that is being used as a tool for conservation, can work in tandem to preserve two of the groups’ highest priority privately-owned pieces of land ” the 7,300-acre Sierra Pacific Industry property and the 590-acre Waddle Ranch. Both parcels comprise the majority of the land on the eastern side of Highway 267.

But even as the conservationists’ plan materializes, the strategy in its entirety also illustrates the amount of work left to accomplish for the Martis Valley to look the way conservationists want it to 20, 50 and 100 years from now.

Preserving portions of Siller Ranch and Hopkins Ranch property, as well as the nearly 8,000 acres on the eastern side of the Martis Valley, present a huge challenge to the nonprofits.

“We have pieces of a winning strategy, but there are still a lot of questions out there,” Mooers said.