Placer planners OK two more Martis subdivisions
Although the Placer County Planning Commission allowed no public comment on the Siller Ranch subdivision proposal on Thursday, its members couldn’t shut out the boos that showered the North Tahoe Conference Center upon approval of the 726-unit, 2177-acre project.The commission’s approval Thursday of two Martis Valley subdivisions, Siller Ranch as well as Eaglewood, sets the stage for the development of 1,188 residential units and 45 holes of golf in the northwestern portion of the contested mountain valley.However, the two projects will almost certainly encounter several more hurdles, as environmental group Sierra Watch vowed to appeal both projects to the Placer County Board of Supervisors. Sierra Watch also promised to sue Siller Ranch if Placer supervisors uphold the planning commission’s approval.The commission “rubber-stamped two projects [Thursday], and Sierra Watch will meet them at every step,” said Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers. “They continue to do what the developer wants and not what is best for the Tahoe Truckee region.” The difference between the Eaglewood and Siller subdivisions was evident early on when representatives of the Town of Truckee and the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe spoke in favor of Eaglewood, especially the 56 affordable units proposed in the plan.Some neighbors of the Eaglewood parcel said that the planners had been thorough in evaluating their concerns and had taken steps to mitigate any negative effects. Sierra Watch President David Welch even noted that Eaglewood was an example of a developer’s ability to include a mix of housing types and costs in a plan and still make money on a project. Still, those comments were mixed with complaints over the gated entrance to the project and the layout of the site.Before Siller Ranch came before the commission, a picket line of more than a dozen opponents to the project formed outside the conference center. Protesters held signs that read: “It’s all about Greed” and “Placer County is Destroying the Martis Valley.” Protesters marched their signs into the conference room and lined them up against the wall as the planning commission gave the go-ahead to the gated, golf course development.Truckee Councilman Ted Owens was the only member of the public allowed to speak on the Siller proposal. Commissioners opted not to open the item to the public because the meeting was a continuation from last month. Nonetheless, Owens urged the commission to allow public comment on remarks the developer of Siller Ranch made earlier in the meeting.”I thought that was flat out wrong,” Owens said after the meeting. “The developer made some comments here that should have been opened up to the public. There were some things that I wanted to say and I will say them to the board of supervisors.”The gates proposed at the entrances to both subdivisions prompted the most discussion by the commission. And in a move that some observers called an inconsistent, commissioners included a condition that would make Eaglewood keep its gates open during the day, but allowed Siller Ranch to keep a “hard gate” – an entrance that would allow access to only residents and guests. Bob Hayes, land use planner for Eaglewood, seemed perplexed by the apparent inequity in the two decisions.”It wasn’t fair,” Hayes said later. “They all should be treated the same.”Ron Parr, representing the developer of Siller Ranch, DMB Highlands Group, told commissioners that the gates were necessary to make his development economically viable. “If you make this a public community I can’t compete with what we’ve designed,” said Parr. “That gate is a very important aspect of this project.” The two projects come at a time of increased concern over gated, luxury developments that divide the region’s communities into “the have’s and the have not’s,” said meeting attendee Gavin Moynahan.”As representatives of the county, it is you duty to build community. This project does not build community,” Moynahan said during discussion on Eaglewood. Owens noted that Truckee officials have generally made up their minds that they don’t want to see gates around the town’s new subdivisions. “I think that Lahontan helped us arrive at a philosophy that gated communities are not appropriate here,” he said. “It’s about exclusivity.”Siller Ranch and Eaglewood were approved under the 2003 Martis Valley Community Plan, which is under legal challenge. The only other development to receive approval under the community plan is Hopkins Ranch, which has also been sued.