Group concerned about environment in Martis Valley plan | SierraSun.com

Group concerned about environment in Martis Valley plan

Erich Sommer

It may have been the free sandwiches, cookies and drinks that drew some of the 90 or so people that packed the conference room and spilled out into the hallways of the Best Western Truckee Tahoe Inn on Tuesday night.

But most in attendance were undoubtedly part of a rising tide of locals concerned about the future of the Martis Valley and a plan that would allow up to 6,800 new homes and several new golf courses in it.

Development in the valley was once again the topic of discussion, this time at a forum held by Sierra Watch, a nonprofit environmental group that formed last year because of concerns about the Placer County’s Martis Valley Community Plan.

The Martis Valley Community Plan is an update of the 1975 Martis Valley General Plan and seeks to guide development and address “new environmental and land issues” in the Placer County portion of the Martis Valley.

A preliminary draft was released in January, with a revised draft expected this week.

The draft proposes a holding capacity of 9,200 dwelling units in the Martis Valley, a 22- percent reduction from what was allowed under the 1975 plan. Still, it would allow for approximately 6,800 more units at buildout than what currently exists or has already been approved in the valley.

The preliminary draft of the Martis Valley Community Plan also calls for the expansion of several roads in the Martis Valley and stoplights on Highway 267 at Shaffer Mill Road and at Northstar Drive.

Environmental groups, including Sierra Watch, said the proposed road expansions are merely symptoms of the thousands of new dwelling units the plan would allow.

On Tuesday, organizers told the audience they were thrilled with the turnout because it was important for more people to be involved in the planning process.

“First, because development decisions matter. They shape what we leave behind for future generations and two, public participation can shape those decisions,” said Tom Mooers, the executive director of Sierra Watch.

In an effort to facilitate increased involvement, postcards that were addressed to Placer County Supervisors were handed out. They encouraged the board to reject the draft plan.

But Dave Welch of Sierra Watch encouraged people to do even more.

“Send in a postcard. You gotta do that. But that’s too easy. You gotta write a letter too,” Welch said. “If you don’t care [about the Martis Valley], they aren’t going to care.”

Earlier in the forum, Stefanie Olivieri of Mountain Area Preservation Foundation briefly reviewed some of the proposed developments in the Martis Valley.

They include Eaglewood (470 units and a golf course), Hopkins Ranch (87 homes and a golf course), Martis Creek Estates (12 homes on 10-acre lots across from Northstar) and Martis Ranch (1300 homes proposed by Sierra Pacific near the top of Brockway Summit).

Northstar also has plans, in various stages of review, for employee housing dormitories, expansion of the village (including 200 residential units), a new parking lot and a new restaurant.

With only one full-time community representative on Placer County’s 12-member Citizens Advisory Committee (which is made up primarily of representatives form service districts and developers), organizers also decided to give everyone in the room a chance to voice their concerns about the valley. Over a dozen took the opportunity to ask questions about everything from wildlife, air quality, water and sewage, and even the effects of the development on the library.

“The Truckee Library is totally impacted by these second homes that are not in Nevada County,” a member of the audience pointed out.

Of those in the audience, a third said they lived in Placer County.

The turnout included Truckee Councilmember Don McCormack, who said he showed up “because I wanted to hear what the public had to say about the plan.”

“[The council is] going to have this in front of us soon, once the environmental impact report is released. We are going to have a public meeting in Truckee, and I wanted to see what people were saying about this plan and what their concerns were,” he said afterward.

“There was a lot of emotion in the room.”

That emotion will likely reach a crescendo later this year, when the plan goes before the Placer County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.