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Supervisors give OK to Martis Plan

Scott Hess

The Martis Valley might no longer be a wide open, rustic area anymore.

After a long approval process that included jousting between developers and preservationists, Placer County supervisors said Tuesday they intend to approve the Martis Valley Community Plan.

While the issue will come back to the Placer County Board of Supervisors, it will only be to approve minor changes, like spelling or grammatical errors.

What the approval does do is allow for as many as 6,000 more residences in the area – there are currently 2,000 there – making for a maximum of 8,600. Although some residents and environmental groups would have liked to stop the plan in its current form, they opted to lobby for less homes and people in the are, the main areas of debated at Tuesday’s meeting.

And just because it was approved, doesn’t mean some environmental groups will let the issue die.

Sierra Watch and

litigation

Throughout the approval process, Tom Mooers, the executive director of Sierra Watch, had said Sierra Watch planned to sue the county if the update was approved. By Wednesday, that had not changed.

“We will continue to seek a compromise with landowners and developers, whether in discussions over the coming months or, if need be, in court mandated settlement negotiations,” Mooers wrote in a statement Tuesday following the hearing.

Sierra Watch, approximately a week before the hearing, released an alternative to the plan, which called for less density with less total residences. Mooers said at the meeting their alternative – homes clustered together in a swath of land on the edge of the proposed area – was a better choice and a way to institute “smart growth” in the Martis Valley.

However, the board of supervisors seemed unfazed by the threat of litigation. Supervisor Robert Weygandt said he knew of the threat of litigation, but, “We’ve done pretty well defending ourselves.”

Total number of

residences

The total number of residences to be allowed in the Martis Valley proved to be the biggest point of contention at the hearing. While the original 1975 Martis Valley Community Plan allowed for 12,000 residences, there was great opposition to this early on and the county decided to decrease the maximum allowed.

Still, many people – including supervisors chairman Rex Bloomfield – argued that 8,600 was still too much for the area. The other four supervisors and county staff argued the opposite, and said this was a reasonable amount for the 25,000 acres of the Martis Valley. A compromise added during drafting of the current plan prohibits development in a large section of meadow along Highway 267.

What Bloomfield and members of the public argued that, with the 8,600 residences, State Route 267 would have to be increased to four lanes sometime in the future. If the plan were reduced by approximately 2,000 residences, according to county staff, SR 267 would never have to be “four-laned.”

Weygandt said even at an aggressive growth rate, SR 267 would not have to be changed for 23 years. He mentioned that a community plan should be updated every 20 years, so the total number of residences becomes a moot point.

Bloomfield did not consent, however, and made it clear that he wanted a reduction in the total number of units.

Arnon Gat, a second homeowner in Northstar-at-Tahoe, had another idea. “Maybe you could put a cap on growth, so you wouldn’t have 0 percent one year, 10 percent the next. Make it gradual, instead of at the whim of the developers,” he said.

Likewise, Babette Haueisen, a long-time resident of the Truckee and Tahoe areas, disagreed with the supervisors. “If you folks go through with this, it’s going to cause a hell of a traffic jam,” she said.

She added that she came to the area for the open space in the Martis Valley, and had enjoyed biking, hiking and fishing in it for more than 50 years. When she asked how many of the supervisors had been to the Martis Valley to hike, bike, fish or participate in some other sort of recreation, none raised their hands. “That’s not too good,” she said.

Washoe Tribe land

After a moving speech in the last hearing from Washoe Tribe chairman Brian Wallace, the board of supervisors agreed to make concessions to save some of the Washoe land.

In a unanimous decision following another statement from Wallace, who praised the supervisors for working with the tribe, the board approved changes to the cultural resources section of the environmental impact report. The new language of the EIR states that the county will work with the Washoe Tribe whenever the threat of disturbance is imminent.

More issues

The board of supervisors met with the intent of deliberating about eight issues: Implementation of an open space conservation program; changes to the transit plan; allowing trails to go around a development near Schaffer Mill Road; denying a connection from Big Springs Drive to the Highlands development; a more extensive water quality monitoring program; immediate re-zoning parts of Northstar-at-Tahoe from timber production to residential; whether or not to change the total number of residences; and the Washoe Tribe concerns.

Each issue, except for the residence maximum, was approved unanimously by the board of supervisors, mostly with little-to-no deliberation.

Affordable housing, which has been a hot topic during the approval process, was dealt with mostly by the re-zoning of the Northstar property. Northstar hopes to implement employee/affordable housing, which seemed to pacify affordable housing concerns.

Support for the plan

While most who spoke disagreed with parts of the plan, they seemed to accept that it would pass.

Jim Olmstead, representing the Northstar Property Owners Association, said the property owners support the Martis Valley Plan; he voiced his support for working toward a more comprehensive water quality monitoring program.

He did add, however, “[Martis Creek Lake] was never intended as a trophy trout lake.” He said it was built specifically for flood control, but most had taken it for a natural lake.

Lanny Winberry, who was representing the Siller Ranch property, also said his clients supported the plan. “The (Sierra Watch) alternative, in reality is another no-growth alternative,” he said. “It eliminates amenities that most purchasers want.”

Jim Porter, an attorney for Porter-Simon and who was representing major Martis Valley property owners, criticized Sierra Watch’s alternative as being nothing more than an attempt to delay the process.

The Martis Valley Plan was expected to pass in Tuesday’s meeting, and Sierra Watch’s proposal came only a week before, Porter said. It did not come at one of the many earlier hearing or workshops, he added. “In comes a brand new proposal to do nothing but delay the process.”

What does it mean to Truckee?

Because the Martis Valley borders Truckee (just east of Truckee), many have argued the new development and extra people will cause a large impact in the Truckee area. Many have argued that there will be a large increase in the amount of traffic and a decline in air quality. In any case, Truckee may have a lot of new neighbors.

What is the next step?

The editorial changes and ultimate approval of the plan and its EIR will be heard at the board of supervisors meeting Dec. 16. Depending on whether the board lists the approval as a “consent item,” there may not be another opportunity for public comment. If it is designated as a consent item, deliberation will only be open to supervisors. Because there was a vote against the plan by Bloomfield, it will most likely not be a consent item, and the public may have the opportunity to participate on last time.


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