Environmental groups call for new Martis Valley plan | SierraSun.com

Environmental groups call for new Martis Valley plan

Erich Sommer

Two dozen meetings and over two-and-a-half years of planning have failed to produce a plan for the Martis Valley that local environmental groups say they can support.

Sierra Watch, the Tahoe Group of the Sierra Club and the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation are all calling for major revisions to the preliminary draft of the Martis Valley Community Update Plan, which was released last month.

In fact, one group, Sierra Watch, would like to see a new plan entirely.

“This general plan is really just a collection of development proposals, and unfortunately, is so bad that tinkering around the edges won’t fix it,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch, an environmental groups that monitors growth and planning in the Sierra. “The area deserves a plan that restricts resort and golf course development in the area. A great step to take would be the formation of a true community plan.”

The 135-page preliminary draft of the Martis Valley Community Plan is designed to serve as an update of the 1975 Martis Valley General Plan.

According to the Placer County Planning Department, it seeks to guide development and address “new environmental and land issues.”

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“[The plan] is Placer County’s constitution for development in the Martis Valley,” said Planning Director Fred Yeager said at a Jan. 21 meeting in which Placer County Planning Department introduced the plan.

But with no representatives from the town of Truckee or Nevada County on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, which met monthly with Placer County planners in formulating the plan, Sierra Watch and the Sierra Club’s Tahoe Group fault the plan for what they call a lack of regional planning.

The Placer and Nevada county line bisects the Martis Valley and also serves as the southern boundary of the town of Truckee.

Currently the 12-member Citizens’ Advisory Committee includes representatives from service agencies such as Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District, Truckee Sanitary District, and the developments or resorts of Lahontan, Northstar, Waddle Ranch and Siller Ranch. The committee also includes two representatives from homeowner’s associations.

“What we need is a joint planning process between the town of Truckee, Nevada County and Placer County. A plan that attracts businesses that pay living wages … and follows the American Planning Associations principles for conservation design. We would then truly have a Martis Valley rural community plan,” the Tahoe Group of the Sierra Club said in a prepared statement.

Mooers of Sierra Watch said the golf course communities allowed under the plan will create more service jobs and exasberate the current shortage of affordable housing.

“The plan will make the current housing crunch worse, because it will increase the demand for affordable housing but provide none itself,” he said

The preliminary draft also calls for the expansion of Highway 267 to four lanes, from Interstate 80 to Northstar Drive. Such expansion would require an additional bypass bridge next to the one currently under construction. The plan would also widen Schaffer Mill Road to four lanes, and add stoplights at the intersection of Highway 267 and Northstar Drive and at Schaffer Mill Road and Highway 267.

In addition, it would allow up to 5,000 new homes in the valley and several communities with 18-hole golf courses.

Still, with all the development the plan would allow, it is, according to the plan itself, a 37 percent reduction in the amount of homes that would have been permitted under the 1975 plan.

“But those reductions [of the number of units] are based on the developer’s proposals and were not outlined in the plan by Placer County,” Mooers said

The Tahoe Group of the Sierra Club added in their response that the reduction of units results from the trend toward larger, second-home communities that are centered on golf courses.

“The Tahoe Group maintains the developers have traded the number of units [they want to build] for golf courses,” stated the Tahoe Group of the Sierra Club.

Representatives of the major landowners and developments in the valley have cited this reduction and their belief that the plan will direct future growth into and around existing developments as improvements over the 1975 plan.

But it’s not just environmental groups that have concerns with the initial draft of the plan.

One Citizens’ Advisory Committee member said the amount of development and the proposed expansion of the roads needs to be reexamined.

“There are some groups that don’t want any development at all, but there is always going to be development,” said Lynne Larson, a representative for the Ponderosa Palisades Homeowners Association. “What we need is development with responsibility, and that is what I would hope this plan would address. But there are some real weaknesses in this plan. It is a developer’s dream.”

Larson and Mike Moretti of the Northstar Homeowner’s Association both said they oppose the connections of roads through the Sierra Meadows neighborhood to Schaffer Mill Road and the extension of Schaffer Mill Road all the way to Northstar.

“We are concerned about the addition of a connecting road between Lahontan and Northstar,” Moretti said.

“I think there are people that have really congested lives, and Northstar is a sanctuary for them, and they are going to lose that, but I don’t know how to deal with that, I really don’t,” he added. “I don’t want to tell them you don’t have a right to that sanctuary, but I don’t want to tell Northstar you can’t expand your business, either.”

The Citizens’ Advisory Committee will make an advisory recommendation on the plan to the Placer County Planning Commission. That recommendation may come as early as Feb. 25, the next meeting of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee.

The impacts of the plan will be assessed in an environmental impact report due out in March.

Placer County is accepting written comments on the draft plan until Feb. 25.

Copies of the preliminary draft are available through the Placer County Planning Department at (530) 889-7470 and online at .