My Turn: Stay mindful of Placer’s rural values
April 20, 2008
I have recently caught wind of a number of blogs and e-mail exchanges from individuals trying to ascertain my position relative to large scale development projects contemplated within the Fifth Supervisorial District, specifically, “Royal Gorge, a Conservation Community” in the Soda Springs/Serene Lakes area and Forest Ranch in Foresthill.
Let me first say that while I respect private property rights and defend an individual’s ability to turn a profit on a speculative ventures, my endorsement of such projects is conditional upon the size, scale and impacts any project may have on residents of long-standing.
This district is unique and is growing in contrast to the rest of the county. Like many within this district, I don’t define progress in terms of how many housing units are constructed or how many miles of roads are paved. Instead, I see progress as embracing growth that is sustainable, growth that achieves a balance between the built and natural environments and, most importantly, growth that complements our rural lifestyles.
What I find most alarming about both of these projects is that while I am sure the developers are attempting to be good environmental stewards and are being responsive to community concerns, both projects have the potential of radically transforming the rural character of these respective communities.
For instance, the Royal Gorge proposal identifies 950 units of new housing. Further, Forest Ranch partner, Doug Ryan, recently articulated that his plan proposes 2,200 new residential units. According to the U.S. Census, currently, there are nearly 500 units in the Serene Lakes/Soda Springs area and approximately 1,000 units in Foresthill. To put things in context, with the development envisioned can you imagine a similar scenario wherein private interests and county leaders are asking you to embrace the doubling of the population within your community, be it
Applegate, Dutch Flat, Tahoe City or all points in between?
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To further amplify, if approved, these projects represent the largest new housing projects ever permitted in the area, allowing the district population to mushroom by nearly 15 percent or 6,000 new residents overnight.
This is growth akin to that which has taken place in Roseville and Rocklin over the past decade.
Thirty-two years ago I was reassigned from the Bay Area to the Sacramento region. Collectively, my family and I made the decision to move to rural Placer County because of the natural and scenic values of the area. The lure of this area is overwhelming and I can hardly blame folks for wanting to call this district home.
However, in my opinion we in this district need to remain mindful of the values that have drawn all of us here and I look forward to discussions with both project proponents and opponents to help me better evaluate the relative merits and demerits of these proposals currently before the county.