The Nevada County Board of Supervisors voted to approve Rincon Del Rio Tuesday after about seven hours of deliberation.
“This is something different, something new, and change is not always bad,” said Chairman Hank Weston in the immediate aftermath of the board vote. “We’ll see what we get.”
Supervisor Richard Anderson, who represents the eastern portion of the county, was the only dissenting vote, saying “no” to the certification of the Environmental Impact Report and the General Plan Amendment.
Anderson said his concern was that approval of the project could establish precedent for similar projects to be proposed in unincorporated areas right outside of Truckee.
“There has been consternation and confusion (about the need for a general plan amendment),” he said. “There has been a bit of an outcry.”
The necessary amendment to the general plan to include a designation that would allow a Continuing Care Retirement Community has been at the center of debate over the merits of the project with critics arguing the change could lead to a proliferation of development over the county and project supporters saying market demand, lack of infrastructure and other factors would prevent such propagation.
Much of the board conversation surrounded the open space provision included in the Development Agreement, a legally binding document between project applicant, Carol Young, and the county, which is viable for 25 years.
Supervisors unilaterally expressed concern that the agreement did not provide ironclad protection of the 170 acres of open space in perpetuity and asked for a conservation easement or a deed restriction.
Peter Lemon, an attorney representing Young, said such restrictions would impair the applicant’s ability to obtain financing for the project, as banks would not provide a loan to a piece of land with a significant encumbrance on 80 percent of the parcel.
“The whole reason many of us may be willing to approve this project is because of the open space,” said Supervisor Terry Lamphier, during the debate.
Ultimately, a compromise was reached between County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green and Lemon when a note was placed on the property map, meaning about 72 percent of the open space will be secured in perpetuity, long after the 25-year development agreement expires.
The board also stipulated the creation of a fire fuels modification program as a condition of approval, some slight revisions to the CCRC planning designation and an upgrade to the fire gate that will act as a buffer between the emergency access road and the development.
The existence of the gate has long been the subject of much conversation as neighbors to the recently approved project expressed concern that an emergency access road would be used as a short cut, thereby increasing traffic on roads they are contractually required to maintain.
“Of course, I am just relieved we can move forward,” said Young after the meeting concluded. “I am glad the supervisors could see the vision.”
Rincon Del Rio is scheduled to be located one-half mile east of Highway 49, just south of the Lake of the Pines community.
The proposal calls for the development of a 215-acre site that encompasses four separate parcels near the Bear River that are currently undeveloped.
The project as currently configured will provide 345 attached and detached housing units.
Plans dictate the development will be clustered on a 40-acre envelope located on the western half of the site with the remaining 170 acres to remain as open space with potential recreational options.
About 50 members of the public provided comment during the meeting with slightly more expressing support of the project.
Many of the opponents were neighbors living in close proximity to where the project is slated to be built, saying the project will compromise the rural nature of the area.
Lamphier questioned the actual rural nature of the area during the meeting, saying that there is about 2,500 developed parcels within a three-mile radius of the proposed project, including several parcels in Lake of the Pines gated community.
Karen Abbott, one of the most vocal opponents of the project, managed to have a provision that may have allowed future subdivision of the project possible stricken from project documents.
“We got the open space, which was really important. We got mechanical locks on the gate, so it feels good,” Abbott said. “We’ll live with it.”
Keoni Allen of Sierra Foothills Construction will team up with Dale Creighton of SCO Planning as the project managers.
Creighton said the next step is to secure annexation of the sewer district, draw up construction plans and prepare the site for grading.
Allen said he is hoping to put a shovel in the ground by the summer.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.