Martis meeting looks at development concerns | SierraSun.com

Martis meeting looks at development concerns

Those leery of the amount of development proposed for the revised Martis Valley Community Plan received what could be considered good news Oct. 10 at a special public hearing held by the Placer County Planning Commission.

According to County Planning Director Fred Yeager, in light of various public comments submitted on the plan, the department has decided to revise one portion of the plan’s draft Environmental Impact Report.

“The one area of the EIR that appears to need further development and more information is the project alternatives section,” Yeager told the 50-or-so people in attendance.

“We’ve decided that we need to explore [project] alternatives which call for somewhat less development – not zero development, but significantly less than we’ve explored so far.”

The proposed draft of the Martis Valley Community Plan proposes a cap of 9,220 dwelling units in the valley at buildout. Although this is a 22-percent reduction from what was permitted under the 1975 plan, the new plan would allow for about 6,800 more units at buildout than what has already been approved for the valley.

Guidelines established by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) require an environmental impact report to both describe

and analyze a range of reasonable alternatives to a project. Those alternatives should feasibly attain most of the basic objectives of the project, while avoiding or substantially lessening one or more of the significant environmental impacts of the project.

“We’ve got our environmental consultant working on the revised version as we speak and once it’s complete, the document will have to be re-circulated for the mandatory 45-day review period,” he said. “We’re also expecting to hold two more hearings similar to this one tonight before any recommendations on the plan are made to the board.”

Yeager said the department is also hard at work coming up with responses to the comments submitted on the original draft EIR.

After Yeager’s opening remarks and several short presentations by planning department staff on issues, the planning commission opened the floor for public comment.

Town of Truckee Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook was on hand to comment about housing and air quality issues.

“A plan that makes sense includes a mix of housing types and some type of community center, both to reduce vehicle trips and make the neighborhood more livable,” Lashbrook said.

As for air quality, Lashbrook suggested the plan include more mitigation measures – similar to those already in place in Truckee.

“You might consider an ordinance which calls for the replacement old wood-burning stoves with those that are EPA approved,” he suggested.

Others expressed concern over the impact of the plan on the area’s wildlife and wetlands.

“I believe some of the proposed land use designations stand to threaten contaminate many of our fragile water systems and I question the efficacy of some of the mitigation measures proposed in the plan,” said Janna Caughron. “I am here to support a scaled back plan, which eliminates all golf courses, protects natural vegetation and provides for development setbacks to protect the clean water and natural resources we value so much.”

Along similar lines, Teri Watt, a planning consultant working for Sierra Watch, a local environmental group, discussed the “biological significance” of the Martis Valley including: wildlife linkages, migratory and fawning areas, unique vegetation and animal species and high quality meadows.

“There really needs to be some type of conservation overlay for this plan,” she said. “I am truly delighted, though, to hear that the planning department is looking into other development alternatives, and hoping to work with them on providing ideas for such alternatives.”

Yeager later added that the planning department is very willing to work with Sierra Watch on a conservation approach.

Several others applauded to the department for its decision to revise the EIR, as there was a resounding call for less development from all that took to the podium.

“The proposed development in this plan is essentially calling for suburban sprawl – something that is not consistent with Placer County guidelines,” said David Welch, a second-homeowner in Northstar. “This revised version of the old plan only reduces development by 20 percent. We can do much better than that.”

The next public hearing on the Martis Valley Community Plan is scheduled for Dec. 12 at 4 p.m. The location of the meeting has yet to be determined.