My Turn: Foster&Syme in a reactionary mode
August 8, 2007
A letter writer (Save Donner Summit from what? Sierra Sun Aug. 3) wants to know why Donner Summit needs to be saved. I have neither a no-growth or pro-growth agenda in mind and will freely admit I have personally benefited from a well-planned, growing community that has helped our family business grow, which in turn has allowed me to fulfill a 25-year-old dream of owning property in the Donner Summit area. I thought Serene Lakes was out of the picture, since last summer I was told I would have to wait three to five years for a sewer permit on a lot that interested me. Fortunately, I found an old cabin attached to the public utilities up there, and turned on the heat in January.Two months later, I attended the first of several public informational meetings hosted by Todd Foster and Kirk Syme. I spoke to each gentleman personally, signed up to serve on a land trust committee and an educational committee, and left the meeting feeling like these businessmen had their hearts in the right place and would listen to the residents.When they promised to preserve Van Norden Meadow, I believe they meant to. They also said they would do everything they could to protect the lakes themselves. But, they hadn’t done due diligence and secured a reliable source of water. Now that their water divinations haven’t turned up anything, and the locals are asking questions they hadn’t anticipated, they are clearly operating in a reactionary mode. They are asking the Sierra Lakes Water District to provide their water now. When I asked them about the channel between the two Serene lakes drying up, or the shallow part of Lake Serena becoming a mudpit, Mike Livak said not to worry because everything was in the preliminary stages. Both the Placer County Planning Commission and the SLCWD have sent them away from meetings, telling them they had not come sufficiently prepared with well-formulated plans.It is easy to feel anxious when we’re only in the preliminary stages is the answer to every question I’ve asked, and my issues are very simple: traffic, fire, water and sewer capacity. There’s only one way in and out of Serene Lakes. While a fire could be disastrous at present, with 1,000 more units it would be catastrophic. Water supply fluctuates with nature’s whim, and even at the 46 percent usage numbers they are using (instead of the 100 percent they are supposed to), the shoreline and surface area of the lakes would change drastically during the summer and fall. Furthermore, the sewer system is already near capacity, so Foster and Syme would need to build a new one and figure out where the effluent will go. They don’t offer any solutions to these problems because they are hoping to be approved anyway.The letter writer asked save Donner Summit from what and from who[m] and it’s pretty basic to me. As Foster and Syme hire more lobbyists (like Darius Anderson of Platinum Advisers in Sacramento) who are looking for legal loopholes and ways to finesse the EIR and CEQA requirements so they can get the current zoning changed and build their 1,000 units, I can’t help feeling scared that big money and big business will bulldoze the interests of a true conservation community, one that currently exists in Serene Lakes.Just a handful of houses are built each year, with sewer permits in hand and a small increase in water and road usage demand that the utility companies can meet. Back in March, the developers teased us with promises of a land trust, open space, public access to trails, and an educational outreach mission, but I haven’t heard about any meetings yet. I guess they’re only in the preliminary stages…Jenyth Gearhart-Utchen is a Soda Springs homeowner and a rhetoric and literature teacher.