Placer looks to add $10M to Waddle purchase
Placer County is on the verge of contributing $10 million toward the conservation of Waddle Ranch, one of the largest undeveloped properties in Martis Valley.
The board of supervisors will vote on whether to sign an agreement today to work with the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Trust for Public Lands on the Waddle Ranch acquisition.
If approved, the $10 million will be the largest infusion of cash toward preserving the property from development. The land trust has received $2 million from the Truckee Tahoe Airport District, $2 million from the state’s Sierra Nevada Cascade Conservation Grant program, and is raising private funding to acquire the Martis Valley property.
The Placer County funding would come from open space fees that will be paid by developments such as Northstar Highlands, Martis Ranch and Timilick Tahoe.
“If [this purchase] is going to come together we need the county’s involvement,” said Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust.
The Pritzker family, hotel magnates who own the majority of the Hyatt chain, have agreed to sell the property to the land trust if their purchase price is met, Norris said.
“They’re willing to sell. Our challenge has been assuring them that we are credible buyers,” he said.
The price, although it has not been made public, is “way beyond anything the land trust has done before,” Norris said.
Part of the reason the property is so valuable is that the 598 acres are zoned for nearly 1,000 new homes under the Martis Valley Community Plan.
A large portion of the property is also in Nevada County.
“Of all of the developments in the Martis Valley, this is probably one of the most developable,” said Norris.
Norris said Placer County Supervisors Bruce Kranz and Robert Weygandt have worked hard to secure the $10 million.
“I certainly support it and our board understands that Waddle Ranch is a very important piece of property,” said Kranz, who represents eastern Placer County.
Kranz said he supports the Truckee Donner Land Trust or the Truckee Tahoe Airport District holding ownership of the land if it is purchased for conservation.
“I think if we buy this land it has to be open to the public to use,” he said.
Kranz said the $10 million figure could dry up all of the open space funding that county has received from Martis Valley developers. The actual estimate on fees is $12.5 million, but Kranz said the county is negotiating with developers to see if they can pay the fees in one lump sum, rather than over the 20 or 25 years that the developments will be built.
If the developers pay the money up front, a slight reduction in the amount of the fee could be negotiated to account for the interest on the money, bringing the Martis Valley fee total to $10 million.
“If we can purchase this land that has 1,000 homes of entitlement to it, that’s going to be 1,000 less homes in the valley, and that’s a good thing,” Kranz said.
The land trust’s goal is to keep development from the eastern side of Highway 267, a section of the Martis Valley that environmental groups say has high value as open space and wildlife habitat.
A 7,000-acre chunk of private land owned by California logging company Sierra Pacific Industries lies alongside Waddle Ranch on that side of Highway 267.
Sierra Pacific Industries released preliminary plans for a ski resort, housing and commercial development for their Martis Valley land before the approval of the Martis Valley Community Plan.
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