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Wolf Creek Ranch project sent back to drawing board

The auditorium where The Nevada County Planning Commission met Thursday evening was nearly at capacity as about 130 people attended to express concerns about the proposed 230-home Wolf Creek Ranch Estates subdivision.

The message from people in the audience, shaking their heads and moaning through a visual presentation about the subdivision, was simple: Tame the Wolf.

The Planning Commission made a decision that was favorable to the legion of neighbors who spoke out against the density and traffic impacts of the proposed 690-acre development. The commission voted unanimously to send Wolf Creek Ranch Estates back to the drawing board, to be brought back for a public hearing on April 22.



Commissioner Kurt Lorenz, who described the plan as “General Plan-busting” and “diminishing the quality of life for people in that area,” apologized to the developers for dragging the project on further. It was first submitted by the Smith family in 1997.

Lorenz said he agrees the applicants have made sincere attempts to improve the project, and while it has improved, he said, “I have to tell you, I think it’s the wrong project in the wrong place.”




In response to the resounding concern about density, Smith family representative and Truckee-based land planner Robert Hayes said he’s unsure that reducing the project’s density is feasible. County staff had suggested dropping to 175 housing units, while neighbors asked for 115.

“I think we’ve come a long way with this plan. (The) requests defeat what we’re trying to accomplish,” Hayes said.

He said the increased density would lower development costs and make affordable housing a reality. Although the proposal did not specify plans for it, Hayes said the affordable housing is a part of the plan and was, in fact, initiated by the developer.

Since the project was first submitted, it has been substantially improved, including a change from two access points and gates to three access points and no gates, Hayes said. However, county staff members don’t recommend the Highway 49 access point.

It also called for 230 single-family units but now proposes 172 homes, three ranch parcels and a parcel slated for 55

condominiums. The plan also includes 60 acres marked for recreation and 240 acres for open space, trails and access to Wolf Creek, Hayes said.

Commissioner John Spencer voiced his support of the project.

“I don’t have any problem with the density of it. I think there’s a lot of open space there … and trails,” he said.

Despite efforts to shed a positive light on Wolf Creek Ranch Estates,

the audience broke out in applause when landscape architect and environmental planner Brian Bisnett said the project has far more negative impacts than benefits.

The project, as proposed, “has the disadvantages of urban living plunked into the inconveniences of rural living,” area resident Julia Reynolds said.

Audience members also included Nevada County Board of Supervisors candidates Olivia Diaz and Steve O’Rourke.

Commissioner Laura Duncan said she was concerned about fostering bad neighborly relations.

“I don’t want to approve something that doesn’t work,” Duncan said.


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