Martis Valley workforce housing OK’d by Placer | SierraSun.com

Martis Valley workforce housing OK’d by Placer

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

What was once approved as an exclusive Martis Valley retreat for the wealthy has now become workforce housing for local employees.

Hopkins Ranch, originally approved by Placer County as an 18-hole golf course with 65 market-rate homes, was modified by the county’s planning commission Wednesday and will now provide 50 affordable homes for workers in the area.

The project sits near the intersection of Highway 267 and Schaffer Mill Road in the Martis Valley. The project will be a first-class development to house workers from DMB Highlands’ developments in the Martis Valley ” the largest of which is Martis Camp, approved by Placer County in 2004.

“These are stick-built units,” said Ron Parr of DMB Highlands Group. “They are not trailers that the wheels come off and you jack up.”

Despite assurances by the developer that the Hopkins Village project would be a quality development, nearby property owners objected to the project they said would lower their property values.

Kurt Reinkens, a property owner in the nearby Lahontan subdivision, said the workforce housing project should have been built within the Martis Camp development, and that the negotiations to change Hopkins Ranch to a workforce housing project were finalized behind closed doors.

“For [the developers] to walk away with $100 million [from the Martis Camp development] and for us to walk away with a loss ” that doesn’t sit well with us,” he said.

The agreement to use Hopkins Ranch for affordable housing was hammered out in 2006 by lawyers from conservation groups suing DMB Highlands Group’s projects in the Martis Valley and the developer. The agreement netted conservationists a smaller Siller Ranch (now Martis Camp) project, the Hopkins Ranch land for affordable housing and open space, and tens of millions of dollars for conservation efforts. The developers, in turn, were assured that lawsuits against their projects would be dropped.

The Hopkins Village plan includes a berm to shield light and noise between the two subdivisions and calls for tree and shrub planting around the village. The Lahontan subdivision and the Hopkins Village homes are already separated by several hundred feet of open space.

The townhomes in Hopkins Ranch are planned to be three-bedroom, 2.5-bath, with one-car garage units. They will be affordable for a wide range of low- and moderate-income buyers, Parr said.

Construction will begin this summer on Hopkins Village, he said, and the first residents should be able to move in by December 2008.

The Placer County Planning Commission’s approval of the changes to Hopkins Ranch are subject to appeal to the county Board of Supervisors.

In 2005, the standoff between conservationists and developers over the future of the Martis Valley was at its peak.

Developers of luxury home projects in the valley were wary of starting to bulldoze the terrain for golf courses or cut roads and home lots, despite being armed with Placer County approvals.

They knew that lawsuits against the county’s plans and several legal challenges to individual projects could potentially overturn their projects. Conservationists were negotiating for compromises to reduce the number of homes and golf courses in the valley.

Hopkins Ranch became the linchpin of an agreement that ended the standoff.

The parcel of land that seemed destined to include 65 luxury homes and an 18-hole golf course was offered up for affordable housing and open space in exchange for the conservation groups dropping their legal challenge to Siller Ranch, which was also down-sized from its original state.

The agreement, announced in a high-rise Sacramento office building before a room packed with developers, conservation groups, lawyers and press, also called for an estimated $72 million in conservation funds for the valley.

DMB Highlands Group soon began planning for workforce housing on the Hopkins Ranch property.

And conservationists set to work finding out how far the revenue generated from the DMB Highlands compromise and other agreements with landowners would go in purchasing land on the east side of Highway 267.