Martis plan sent to county supervisors | SierraSun.com

Martis plan sent to county supervisors

Scott Hess

The highly contested Martis Valley Community Plan, which has been in the works for four years, has moved a big step closer to approval.

With a capacity crowd in attendance, the Placer County Planning Commission June 26 unanimously approved the Martis Valley Community Plan and the plan’s environmental impact report, sending the project to the Placer County Board of Supervisors regular meeting on July 21. Once there, the project will become a reality or a memory.

County and town officials, attorneys, environmentalists and concerned residents voiced their opinions in support and opposition of the project. Despite the questions raised, the planning commission passed the plan and EIR with relatively minimal changes. The few changes were mostly related to density and affordable housing.

Affordable housing and density

Affordable housing was a hot-button issue at the meeting. Some attendees expressed frustration that the final EIR did not include a mitigation measure (from the draft EIR), dealing with affordable housing.

The mitigation measure requires project applicants to construct 5 percent of the units as very low-income households and an additional 5 percent as low-income households.

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Truckee Mayor Ted Owens addressed the issue, saying “The Town of Truckee is surprised, and frankly confused, by the recent modifications to the FEIR related to affordable housing.”

“These changes literally gut the housing program we previously viewed as a significant step in actively addressing regional planning issues.”

Joseph Guzm+n, who works for the Workforce Housing Alliance of Tahoe Truckee, said affordable housing is a “regional issue” that “needs a regional approach, needs a regional solution.”

“It’s not enough to commit to building [affordable housing], you have to get it on the ground. It’s not enough to get it on the ground, you need to get it on the ground when you need it,” he said.

Placer County Planning Director Fred Yeager explained that the measure was repetitive, and the issue of affordable housing was addressed elsewhere in the community plan.

Specifically, the county staff referenced requirements that the developer construct residences in a clustered pattern, which Yeager said would create a higher density and lower cost.

Environmental issues

Residents also shared concerns about the environmental impact of the plan as it relates to Martis Valley, as well as the surrounding area.

“All the development will be upstream from the [Martis Creek] Lake,” said Richard Anderson, publisher and editor of Truckee-based California Flyfisher Magazine.

“The Martis Valley Community Plan will serve as…its death warrant.”

Likewise, Jon Paul Harries, program director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said “I have deep concerns that the plan does not fully take into consideration…the impact on the Tahoe Basin.” He said the effects would reach farther out, even to Lake Tahoe.

Tom Moore, executive director of Sierra Watch, an environmental group, said “It threatens to squander the quality of life. There will be tens of thousands of more daily car trips.”

In response to this, Pacific Municipal Consultant Pat Angell, as a representative for the Placer County Staff, said measures dealing with water quality, as well as traffic and air quality in the Tahoe Basin, both addressed the environmental issues.

Specifically, issue 3.4.6 in the EIR says traffic impacts would be limited in the Tahoe Basin, mostly to the intersection of State Route 267 and State Route 28. It says “no significant project traffic impacts would occur on the SR 28 roadway segment.”

It also states that farther out on SR 28, the traffic is expected to disperse “and no other significant traffic impacts are expected.”

The California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners (CABPRO) Truckee Field Director Pat Davison addressed some of the traffic and density issues, saying there is no way to know what will be built on the site. She said by using a growth rate of 6 percent, “which is twice the historic growth rate, the plan area will only be 40-60 percent built out in 20 years.”

Four lanes on State Route 267

With the increase in population over the years, it has been established that SR 267, between Truckee and Northstar, may have to be increased from two to four lanes.

Opposition has been brought up several times throughout the planning process, but County of Placer Department of Public Works Associate Civil Engineer Richard R. Moorehead said it wouldn’t be an issue until significant building, at least 20-50 years down the road (depending on the growth rate), is completed.

The decision

Following public comment, the planning commission decided to incorporate recommendations for land use, eight “conservation planning principles” and language to decrease the footprint on the east side of the plan area.

The first principle requires the developer to “Conserve large, intact and interconnected areas of natural open space that contribute to the last remaining habitat linkage between the Sierra Nevada and the Mount Rose Wilderness Area in the Carson Range.” Other principles call for maintaining open space to preserve habitats and the natural biological diversity and functions.

Also included in the list of principles is that the plan encourages “opportunities for recovery of rare, threatened, and endangered species and for restoration of the habitats that support them.”

The last of the planning principles is put in place to “Insure that long-term conservation of important resource land is achieved through a combination of regulatory actions, acquisition of easements, purchase of developments rights, and both public and private land acquisitions.”

History of the plan

The plan is the continuation and revision of the original, first adopted in 1975. It encompasses approximately 44,800 acres (70 square miles) of land in both Placer and Nevada Counties, with approximately 57 percent of the area in Placer County, according to the Martis Valley Community Plan.

The plan area, however, is only on the Placer County side, which is approximately 25,570 acres and, according to Yeager, has a buildable area of approximately 21,300 acres.

The Martis Valley Community Plan now will be carried over to the Placer County Board of Supervisors on July 21. This will be the final decision for the plan and the EIR.