My Turn: ‘Just say no’ harms environmental and community groups | SierraSun.com

My Turn: ‘Just say no’ harms environmental and community groups

Kirk Syme

So much for civilized discourse.

Royal Gorge has yet to submit a development application to Placer County and already the organized groups claiming to represent the residents of Donner Summit and environmental interests have rejected a formal dialogue with us. Here’s what took place:

Mountain Area Preservation Foundation approached us with the idea of participating in a dialogue with Sierra and Donner Summit environmental and community groups. We said yes, and that we’d be willing to help foot the bill for the services of a professional facilitator.

A letter inviting various groups to participate in such a dialogue was prepared and sent. A few weeks later the groups wrote back rejecting such a dialogue with us. Instead, they claim they want to carry out a private planning process (without county involvement) for the Donner Summit area. They say that we should hold off pursuing development plans on our property until they are through with their planning to determine what should be built on our private land.

The groups have known for years that there are significant parcels of land on the Summit zoned for future development. In years past, their “planning” to prepare for such development has consisted of raising money for lawsuits. The leading homeowners’ organization on the Summit, for example, established its legal fund before we even purchased the Royal Gorge land. Now faced with an invitation to actually talk about sensible, reasonable development plans for the largest private land holding at the Summit, the groups suddenly have a newfound interest in “planning.”

Fortunately, there are reasonable Donner Summit residents who have started to wonder whether these groups purporting to represent their interests are really doing so ” and these people are contacting us.

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When we purchased the Royal Gorge land, we started our planning process by reaching out to numerous stakeholder groups and individuals. We have carried out an unprecedented public outreach effort, and the input we’ve received has had a significant impact on our development plans.

We have met with and heard from hundreds of people. All of this was carried out in advance of submitting an application to Placer County. Once we make a submittal to the county, there will be numerous additional opportunities for public involvement and input.

The conceptual plan that we shared with the public in March reflected what we heard from community residents; for example, that input caused us to eliminate a golf course from our plan and to propose far fewer units than are currently permitted by the zoning and general plan for this area. The plan we will soon submit to the county will reflect additional public input we have received.

The rejection of a dialogue by the organized groups does not spell the end of our desire or our ability to work with individual Donner Summit residents. We intend to continue to be forthcoming with information about our development plans and to make every effort to keep listening and refining the plans based upon the input we receive.

We especially look forward to working closely with those Donner Summit residents who realize that whatever we do on Royal Gorge lands will be much enriched as a result of their involvement, and that our intention to protect more than 70 percent of the Royal Gorge lands as open space forever is an opportunity, not a threat to the community and the region.