Martis Valley Plan on hold, more information requested | SierraSun.com

Martis Valley Plan on hold, more information requested

Scott Hess

People interested in the future of Martis Valley will have to wait until October to learn the area’s fate.

After three hours of presentation from county staff and three hours of public comment, the Placer County Board of Supervisors Monday decided in just over a half hour to table the decision of the Martis Valley Community Plan until its October meeting.

During the meeting, board of supervisors chairman Rex Bloomfield – to the surprise of many of the almost 100 in attendance – said the board could not make an informed decision at that point. He said it needed more information to settle some differences before approving the community plan and environmental impact report.

“There is no way, in this point in time, that we can make a decision on this now,” Bloomfield said. He then proposed the idea to hold a workshop – not a hearing – to discuss the issues of affordable and employee housing, trails, transit, traffic and Martis Lake. The goal, he said, was to try to come to compromises on these highly debated issues.

Bloomfield also said he had talked with the Sierra Club, Sierra Watch, the Sierra Business Council, Ron Parr from Lahontan and Jim Porter, a local attorney, to “build some compromises” at the workshop.

The concerns

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There has been a lot of opposition to the Martis Valley Community Plan and even litigation threatened, if the plan and EIR had passed through the board of supervisors as it is written now.

Carol Kurland, a Bay Area Resident who has a second home in Northstar with her husband, stated many of the public’s concerns. “The proposed Martis Valley Community Plan, we feel, greatly underestimates the impacts of the development it proposes – on traffic congestion, air quality, water quality, noise, natural habitats and other factors, and poses a grave threat to everything that’s special about this area.”

She also said, “Whether deliberate or not, the assumption that build-out will stop at the low end of the allowable density range results in misleading the public about the potential impacts of the plan.”

This was in response to the county staff’s presentation, in which Placer County Planning Director Fred Yeager showed different growth projections for the area. The lowest growth rate presented was two percent, which would result in the Martis Valley being significantly built out “in about fifty years.”

Jacqui Zink, a Truckee resident and a park ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers, also brought up several issues. She said the quality of Martis Lake was declining, making visitors and regulars seek recreation elsewhere, which takes money away from the area.

Also, she said there are too many fences that create exclusive communities, and there are too many proposed golf courses. “There is no doubt that this would have a highly detrimental effect on the Martis Creek watershed and on Martis Creek Lake itself,” Zink said. “I see no reason why people who want to live so badly in the mountains cannot learn to recreate in a natural way or drive to one of the many golf courses that exists in the area, only a few miles away from their few-million-dollar homes.”

Despite the large amount of opposition, most who spoke said they would support the plan, if only modified. Kurland perhaps said it best. “We would support a reasonable amount of development,” she said.

The question that remains, however, is “What is reasonable?”

Jim Williams, the president of the Northstar Properties Homeowners Association, echoed Kurland’s thoughts on the plan. “In general terms, I do (support the plan),” he said. “If they deal with (some shortcomings), then it will be good.”

Affordable housing

One of the biggest issues raised was affordable housing. Many people addressed the issue, and pleaded to the board of supervisors to make sure affordable housing was included in the plan.

Mike Dunsford, a Truckee resident, addressed the housing issue and how to make sure that affordable housing is included in development in the Martis Valley. He said that an in-lieu fee, which a developer may choose to pay instead of building affordable housing, should be “150 percent of the dollar equivalent” of affordable housing. “If a developer wants to take the easy way out,” he said, “they should pay a premium.”

Dunsford did add that he only spoke to the big developers, who had the means of building affordable housing. He said the 150 percent in-lieu fee should apply, “Only in a case where the developer does in fact have the land, have the zonings, have the ability to include [affordable] housing but elects to take the easy way out.”

Breeze Cross, a Truckee resident who was representing the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe, said the group also had concerns about affordable housing. He said the problem of workforce housing needs to be dealt with regionally.

Support for the plan

Although a lot of issues were raised, many people said they would support the plan, if it is altered in some way. Others supported the plan outright.

Porter said he was involved in the original 1975 Martis Valley Plan. “At the time it was considered an excellent plan,” he said. “The plan you’re looking at today is much better. It raises the bar.”

The board of supervisors seemed to support the plan, but had too many questions about it. Board members mentioned they received a large amount of correspondence the night before, the morning of and during Monday’s meeting, which they did not have time to go through. After some compromise, it seems the plan will pass through the board of supervisors.

The workshop and the decision

The workshop will be open to the public and will be held sometime between now and the board of supervisors’ October meeting. The board hopes to work out the details of specific issues at the workshop, and may take public comment, if new issues arise. With the compromises made at the board meeting, it is likely that the Martis Valley Community Plan will be approved by the board of supervisors.

For more information about the Martis Valley Community Plan and the workshop, visit http://www.placer.ca.gov.