Private school development for 42-acre Martis Valley site under review
February 24, 2016
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Regional officials and local residents are expressing initial concerns over potential traffic impacts and property use regarding Tahoe Expedition Academy's proposal to build a school campus in Martis Valley.
"We all use that artery (Highway 267), and if we're not using that artery, then we are clogging the Tahoe City artery," said Ellie Waller, of Tahoe Vista, at the Feb. 11 North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council meeting. " … We are clogging our arteries, and maybe this isn't the best location for the school. The school is a necessary thing I think for the community, but I don't know if this is the right location."
The campus is proposed on a 42-acre site in Martis Valley off of Schaffer Mill Road known as Hopkins Ranch. The Martis Fund owns the property.
Sixteen separate buildings are proposed, including primary schools, a middle and high school, a field house, an administration building and boarding for up to 40 students, said Keith Franke, project manager.
"The intent architecturally is to break up the structures into smaller, more manageable pieces to fit the land better," he explained to the council at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. "(Since) we have a good size site and because the real objective of TEA is to get the kids out of the classrooms and into nature, the site is a classroom in and of itself."
As proposed, the campus would have the capacity for up to 350 students ranging from per-kindergarten through 12th grade.
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In response to concerns that Schaffer Mill Road may already be overburdened, Franke explained that part of the proposal includes widening the road, with a turn lane added so traffic can get off the road and onto a roughly 300-foot-long driveway to access the campus.
In addition, Loomis, Calif.-based KD Anderson & Associates prepared a traffic analysis that studied the Schaffer Mill/267 intersection and found that even with the addition of the campus, it would continue to have acceptable levels of service, Franke said in a follow-up interview.
Placer County staff is reviewing TEA's application for associated environmental impacts, including traffic and noise, Allen Breuch, with the county's Planning Department and serving as project planner, said at the NTRAC meeting.
"We're getting feedback from various people within the county from the traffic folks (and) planners," Breuch said, adding that staff has not made an environmental determination on needed level of review at this time. " … We'll notify people through the public hearing process (as to) what we are going to be looking at."
It's anticipated the project will be heard by the Placer County's Planning Commission in early spring, Paul Thompson, assistant director for the county's Community Development Resource Agency, said in late January.
Should project entitlements be approved, the roughly $4 million purchase of the 42-acre site from the Martis Fund will be finalized, Franke said in a follow-up interview.
Construction, anticipated to be broken out into five or six phases, is aimed to begin in May 2016, he said.
The first phase would consist of infrastructure improvements such as roadway modifications, and the construction of three buildings, which are expected to be the middle and high schools and the maintenance building, Franke said.
The goal would be for Phase 1 to be completed by fall 2017 in time for the 2017-18 school year, he said.
Construction of the other phases would depend upon funding and operational demand.
WORKFORCE HOUSING ELEMENT
The site was previously slated for workforce housing, according to past reports.
"While I love (the TEA) proposal, I am very concerned that this is Martis Fund property that was intended for workforce and affordable housing," said Placer County District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, whose region includes North Lake Tahoe, at last month's supervisors meeting. " … I don't want to be taking lands off the table that were really identified for this unless we are somehow replacing them.
"Otherwise, we are just continuing to magnify the existing problems (of limited workforce housing)."
According to TEA, the Martis Fund will use the roughly $4 million sale to support and build workforce housing closer to existing neighborhoods, where there are stores, services and public transportation.
Efforts to seek comment from the Martis Fund to learn more about those plans were not immediately returned for this story.
TEA is proposing the new campus to handle increased enrollment. Since opening in 2011, the academy has nearly doubled from its initial 72 students, Franke said.
The academy has been looking for property for roughly three years to house a campus to replace its facilities in Kings Beach, Tahoe Vista and Martis Valley, he said.
Originally, in 2013, TEA was looking at building a campus in Kings Beach, where the Crown Motel, Falcon Lodge and roadside portion of the Goldcrest Resort sit off of Highway 28.
That proposal faltered due to issues regarding the Falcon Lodge that delayed TEA from purchasing the intended 1.4-acre campus site, according to previous reports.
As a result, in May 2015, after months of negotiations, TEA announced it struck a deal with the Martis Fund for property in Martis Valley to construct a campus.
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