Update: Martis Plan all but passed | SierraSun.com
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Update: Martis Plan all but passed

Scott Hess

The Martis Valley might no longer be a wide open, rustic area anymore.Despite requests from most people who commented to lower the number of allowable residences, and despite a long debate between Placer County supervisors, an intent to approve the Martis Valley Community Plan was approved Tuesday.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. It seemed like residents and even environmental groups had given up hopes of stopping the plan, so they opted to lobby for less homes and people in the area.And just because it was approved, doesn’t mean some environmental groups will let it live.

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 after 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 the less dense alternative 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.”

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.What Bloomfield and members of the public argued was 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 home owner 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, vehemently 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.

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.

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.

While most who spoke disagreed with parts of the plan, most 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.”

The editorial changes and ultimate approval of the plan and its EIR will be heard, most likely as a “consent” item, at the board of supervisors meeting Dec. 16. If the issue is listed as a consent item, there will be no public comment, and deliberation will only be open to supervisors.


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