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Impacts of 230-home plan debated

After fits and starts, the proposed Wolf Creek Ranch Estates subdivision will be back in front of the Nevada County Planning Commission tonight. And more than likely, so will a number of concerned neighbors of the proposed 230-home project.

The Smith family – mother Chris and sons Frank Jr. and Scott – is developing the project, taking up approximately 690 acres on the west side of Highway 49 just south of Lime Kiln Road. Their plan includes 172 homes, three ranch parcels and a parcel slated for 55 condominiums on about 390 acres. Included in the development are about 240 acres of open space and 60 acres marked for recreation.

The Smiths submitted their plan to the county in 1997 for 230 single-family homes. In 2000, the Planning Commission approved the project environmental impact report, but neighbors successfully appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors on issues such as traffic and to consider additional project alternatives.



While the 55 condos are not being proposed until the future, “We are recommending that that one component not be approved,” said Todd Herman, a planner for the county. He said the county planning department is recommending that the density of the project be reduced to 175 units.

“I suspect a lot of the discussion (at the planning commission) will be focused on that topic,” Herman said.




The Smith family’s representative, Truckee-based land planner Robert Hayes, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. But according to the county report, the increased density sought by the family was to lower development costs and make it more affordable to construct a pipeline to bring in treated NID water.

According to the county planning department, the development proposal is consistent with the allowable density and provides a clustered development that is sensitive to the site.

Of the additional six project alternatives floated in the 2001 revised environmental impact report, Brian Bisnett, a landscape architect and environmental planner who lives near the proposed project, said neighbors prefer a 115-lot plan.

Scaling down the project would reduce the density and the impacts – traffic, air quality and tree loss – that would result, Bisnett said. He noted most of the parcels adjacent to Wolf Creek Ranch Estates are about five acres, while the proposed lot sizes in the subdivision are a third of an acre to a half acre.

“I think it sets a terrible precedent for the rural areas of Nevada County,” Bisnett said. “The goal of the (county’s) general plan is to direct growth to the community regions and away from the rural regions. The opposite of that is sprawl.”

According to its environmental impact report, the project will “increase traffic and exacerbate existing circulation and traffic safety concerns” in the area. If approved, the project developer will be responsible for improving portions of Lime Kiln Road to Highway 49.

While some impacts of the project can be mitigated, others are more difficult to solve, the planning department report stated. These impacts include traffic on the Highway 49 road segment between Higgins Corner and Lime Kiln Road, and the segment north of Lime Kiln Road toward Grass Valley.

“This project will contribute additional traffic to each of these segments,” the staff report said.

KNOW AND GO

What: Nevada County Planning Commission discussion of Wolf Creek Ranch Estates proposal

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Board of Supervisors Chambers, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City


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