Town of Truckee appeals Placer’s Siller Ranch decision
July 6, 2004
The Town of Truckee filed an appeal Tuesday on the Placer County Planning Commission’s approval of Siller Ranch, sending the gated Martis Valley project to Placer’s board of supervisors for a decision.The appeal says that the planning commission’s decision to approve Siller Ranch while deferring plans for workforce housing is illegal and inconsistent with the county’s previous position. Siller Ranch, planned for southwest of the Lahontan subdivision, is projected to generate between 387 and 490 new jobs, according to Placer County staff reports.Truckee Mayor Josh Susman said that the planning commission’s decision ignored many of the concerns that the town has consistently raised, and that the appeal voices the issues that the town feels were not addressed in the approval.”These are things that we tried to address to the county that were of particular import,” said Susman. In its appeal, Truckee requests that the Placer County Board of Supervisors “overturn the action of the planning commission and direct your staff and the commission not to schedule this or any other significant employee-generating project for final consideration until the required employee housing is an integral part of the land use application.” By deferring the workforce housing element of the project, the county came up with a flawed environmental review, according to the appeal. Approving projects in such manner “leaves the critical workforce housing element of the project totally up in the air, subject to the development of a future plan with no specifics on the amount of housing, the location of the housing to be built, or the timing of the availability of the housing…,” the appeal read. The Town of Truckee has consistently criticized the absence of workforce housing in Siller Ranch, a 726-unit golf course development, and has raised traffic and air quality concerns regarding the project.In a January letter to Placer County, the town called the absence of affordable housing plans a “fatal flaw” in Siller’s Environmental Impact Report.The appeal reflects Truckee’s growing frustration with Placer County’s treatment of the affordable housing situation in the Martis Valley. Despite assurances by the board of supervisors that Placer County will address the employee housing in the Martis Valley, two resort developments have been approved with conditions that delay concrete employee housing proposals until a housing mitigation plan can be formulated. The town has also noted that Placer County’s employee housing ordinance, designed specifically for the Sierra portion of the county, is still in its fifth draft form and may not be passed in time to influence major Martis Valley developments.Placer County Supervisor Rex Bloomfield, whose district includes Martis Valley, said that he was not surprised that Truckee appealed the Siller Ranch decision.”They have been pretty emphatic that we have to do more to address housing,” said Bloomfield. “It’s something that we cannot ignore.”Bloomfield, who lost his seat in the March election, said that his county has got to start using the affordable housing money that they have collected and get workforce units on the ground.”Right now we have lots of money in the fund but we haven’t got any housing built,” he said.By deferring affordable housing plans, Placer County is assuming that their will be suitable land to accommodate these affordable units, which in the case of Siller Ranch is over 100 units. That is an assumption that may not be correct, Truckee’s appeal said.”In fact, lacking its location within the project it doesn’t appear that another site is readily available within Eastern Placer County with adequate infrastructure and zoning to accommodate this number of units,” the appeal said.Bloomfield also questioned where the housing could be located if not included in the 2,177-acre project site.”If they can’t put [the workforce housing] in the subdivision, where will it be built?” he asked.Environmental groups appeal two Martis Valley projectsFive environmental groups, headed by the Nevada City-based Sierra Watch, appealed both Siller Ranch and Eaglewood, the two Martis Valley projects approved by the Placer County Planning Commission on June 24.Citing the threat development poses to Martis Creek and surrounding wildlife habitat, the same five groups who sued the Martis Valley Community Plan called Siller Ranch “sprawling suburban development at its worst” in the three-page appeal.The appeals allege that the environmental impact reports of both projects failed to adequately analyze the impacts of development, and that Placer County violated state law in approving the projects. Together the projects comprise over 2,600 acres of development that would include 1,188 housing units and 45 holes of golf. The two new appeals mean that every project approved under the 2003 Martis Valley Community Plan has either been appealed or sued.Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation Foundation also appealed, and later sued, Hopkins Ranch, the first subdivision approved under the community plan.