Revised plan for Martis Valley considered
A standing-room only crowd of residents packed inside the cramped Truckee-Tahoe Airport board room Monday to hear the latest proposals for Martis Valley development from the Placer County Planning Commission.
After 15 months of lengthy discussions, two alternative plans for development of Martis Valley were unveiled by Placer County Planning Director Fred Yeager to representatives from the Sierra Club, private business interests and numerous residents.
The Martis Valley General Plan, which was adopted in 1975, is the second-oldest plan in Placer County and has not been updated for over 20 years. At the plan’s inception, growth estimates for the area were massive and warranted high-density housing plans and increased community planning.
Initial projections predicted that the Martis Valley, located along Highway 267 from Sierra Meadows to Northstar-at-Tahoe, would be built out by 1990. Today, 11 years later, Yeager says that according to the current plan, the valley is not even 50 percent developed.
Some at the meeting said they approved of the revised plan.
“It is definitely encouraging that the new plan was so scaled down in terms of development from the original. While growth and building are inevitable, it seems as though they are heading in the right direction with this proposal,” said Sierra Club member Tom Ameika after the meeting.
Two alternatives to the current plan have been drafted.
The differences between the two alternate plans are slight, centering mostly around residential reduction.
“The second plan will most likely be recommended for final approval after its completion, as it is more aligned with where we want to be,” said Yeager after explaining the two drafts.
The second plan does allow for residential growth around Northstar-at-Tahoe like the proposed Eaglewood development and further phases of Lahontan, which has purchased 2,100 acres to the south and west of the existing subdivision.
It greatly reduces the density of housing, however, calling for larger, more expensive units rather than the 10,000 new homes anticipated in the current plan.
Despite this significant reduction in residential building density, some residents remain concerned about the pending growth.
“Lower density housing is preferable to high and medium density units, but either way it is still urban sprawl,” Ameika noted. “San Franciscans will buy up these new huge places as second homes and then they will sit empty half of the year, taking up land space.”
A plethora of concerns such as increased traffic on Highway 267, preservation of open space, air quality, water use, utilities, noise, protection of riparian corridors and affordable housing are just some of the issues that the Planning Commission has tackled over the last year to bring a Martis Valley plan to fruition.
“These county-wide plans are by no means static, and will most assuredly change pending considerations of private owners and public input,” said Yeager.
General sentiment in the boardroom, however, appeared favorable towards the second alternative plan and no major opposition to the initial draft was voiced.
The tentative new plan virtually eliminates all high-density residential planning except for a portion of the Eaglewood plan allotted for employee housing, and a small additional region off Highway 267. It allocates space for three potential park sites as well as three proposed golf courses which are designated on the plan as open space.
This designation roused questions from many of those present at the meeting, who voiced concern that the open space designation was misleading because the golf courses would not be open to the public.
Yeager responded to the group’s request for an overlay on the final plan that would outline where the golf courses would be built in the open space area.
“We will work on making that distinction more clear before the next meeting,” Yeager replied.
Water use and supply are additional issues married to the construction and maintenance of the new golf courses that raised questions throughout the meeting. The Planning Commission assured the group that further water considerations will continue to be discussed before the plan is finalized.
“Every development will be evaluated individually to ensure that water standards are observed and will be in line with regulations before any building begins,” Yeager answered to concerns over consumption and supply issues.
Overall, a call for lower-density building is unusual in urban planning circles as private land owners often want to maximize their land space to increase returns, according to Yeager.
“Protecting the wildlife corridor and preserving the open space that the community enjoys is vital. I can still take my dogs out on the trails and enjoy nature without huge buildings and traffic,” Ameika said.
The next Martis Valley planning meeting is scheduled for March 26 and will address further concerns regarding water issues and the proposed alternatives in general.
After the turnout Monday, the site will also be changed from the traditional board room to a site that will be less crowded.
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