Public hashes out Martis Plan issues
The Placer County Board of Supervisors held a public workshop Monday to work out issues regarding the controversial Martis Valley Community Plan and its environmental impact report.
Board chairman Rex Bloomfield initiated the workshop at a July meeting so the issues could be discussed in a more controlled manner and the board could receive more information without having to make a formal decision.
Attendees presented many of the same issues that have been discussed throughout the long planning process – affordable housing, water quality, transportation and circulation, trails, golf courses and open space – but some new topics were discussed as well.
Washoe Tribe speaks out
Brian Wallace, chairman of the Washoe Tribe, brought up an issue that was not discussed in any of the previous public meetings.
“For the Washoe people and for us, history is more about place than it is time. And the Martis Complex actually is the very representative of a symbol of a culture and a history of the land,” Wallace said. “It’s the epicenter of the Washoe culture as we know it and the tracks in the snow that we follow are very, very old.”
Wallace said the Washoe Tribe should be able use the land and keep it natural.
“My job is to fight for our most important teachers. And that’s the elders, our families, and most particularly, the land.”
“[The Martis Valley] continues to play a very integral and critical role in the culture of the Washoe Tribe,” explained the Washoe Tribe’s general counsel, Tim Seward. “The Final EIR doesn’t ensure protection of unique archeological and historic resources. Secondly, the FEIR does not include Statement of overriding conditions on some other issues where significant impacts are accepted.”
In response, the board asked county staff to work with the Washoe Tribe to ensure land protections are included in the final plan.
The usual suspects and new decisions
While most of the issues had been discussed at previous hearings, the board took new actions this time.
For employee housing, the board will consider the immediate re-zoning of 15 acres of timber and harvesting area in Northstar to residential. This would allow for more employee housing.
With regard to water quality – “To me, at least, the prudent approach is to improve water quality monitoring,” said Richard Anderson, publisher and editor of California Fly Fisher Magazine – the board decided to vote at the hearing to possibly require “a more comprehensive quality control program.”
Traffic was a big issue at the workshop, especially with the possible increase to four lanes on state Route 267 and the Highlands-Big Springs Drive connector.
Although Placer County Department of Public Works Associate Civil Engineer Richard Moorehead said increasing 267 to four lanes would not be necessary for at least 20 years (and could be closer to 60 years), many who spoke about transportation lobbied for a reduction of total units in the plan. Moorehead told the board that the plan would have to cut out 1,700 units to keep 267 at two lanes. Ultimately, the board asked county staff to prepare alternatives to view what a 1,700-unit reduction would look like.
For the Highlands-Big Springs Drive connector, the plan proposes that road be open for public access. However, several representatives and residents from Northstar argued public access would cause too much traffic and negatively impact the neighborhood.
For golf course issues (Should there be more? Should they be only private? Should there be alternatives, like a “links” course?) and for definition of open space (Do golf courses and other recreational facilities count as open space?), the county staff recommended these be determined on a case-by-case basis.
In addition, the board reiterated that the Washoe Tribe be consulted to determine what compromises could be made.
The future and the past
The Martis Valley Community Plan will return to the board of supervisors, but this time at a regular hearing. At the hearing, scheduled for Oct. 21 at Northstar-at-Tahoe, the board can approve or deny the plan, although it is unlikely any final decision will be made.
The plan is the continuation and revision of an original plan, first adopted in 1975. It encompasses approximately 44,800 acres (70 square miles) of land in both Placer and Nevada counties, with approximately 57 percent of the area in Placer County, according to the Martis Valley Community Plan’s EIR.
The plan area, however, is only on the Placer County side, which is approximately 25,570 acres. It also currently allows for 6,800 dwelling units.
For more information on the Martis Valley Commnity Plan, visit http://www.placer.ca.gov/planning.
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