Loma Rica Ranch development clears Grass Valley planning commission, heads to council | TheUnion.com

Loma Rica Ranch development clears Grass Valley planning commission, heads to council

This map from the Loma Rica Ranch Specific Plan approved in 2011 shows the proposed Creeks neighborhood.
Courtesy City of Grass Valley

A proposed 235-unit housing development on the Loma Rica Ranch property, which has gone through a protracted evolution over several decades, was OK’d Tuesday by the Grass Valley Planning Commission.

That first phase of the development, the Creeks neighborhood between Sutton Way and Brunswick Road, north of Idaho-Maryland Road, will next go to the city council.

A number of concerns were aired during the commission meeting, not only by residents but also by planning commissioners. These included traffic impacts, safety issues and the project’s lack of affordable housing.

But after a more than two-hour discussion, planning commissioners voted 4-1 to move the project forward, recommending the council adopt a number of findings recommended by staff, adopt an addendum to the Environmental Impact Report, approve amendments to the Specific Plan and approve the Tentative Subdivision Map subject to the conditions of approval.

The housing being proposed for the Creeks neighborhood is the first phase of one section of the 452-acre mixed-use development that constitutes Loma Rica Ranch. That portion of the former ranch property contains some acreage slated for a mixed-use development along Sutton Way.

The proposed map includes multiple paved trails, trailhead parking, an internal parking area near two trails, eight open space parcels totaling 29.18 acres, and the avoidance of four wetland areas. The landscape plan shows linear parks along the trails that incorporate benches and picnic tables, and a shade structure and picnic area near the center wetland.

The subdivision map has 124 single-family homes, 51 single-family homes with garages at the rear, and 60 “duet homes,” or duplexes, in farmhouse, Craftsman, and Victorian styles. House sizes range from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet for the duet homes to 1,500 to 2,400 square feet for the single-family units.

Prices will be “market-competitive” for new homes, said Steve Garrett of Castle Companies, adding the duet homes are geared to be more affordable, while the larger houses will be marketed toward young families, empty nesters and retirees.

During Tuesday’s Planning Commission hearing, Garrett said the prices had not yet been set in stone, but estimated the high $300,000s to low $400,000s for the duet homes and a high $500,000s price point for the detached homes. Garrett said last fall he hopes to break ground this summer.

Loma Rica Ranch includes three other neighborhoods slated for development: the Farm, Lake and Trailhead neighborhoods.

Changes include removing roundabouts

Grass Valley Community Development Director Tom Last told the planning commissioners the proposed amendments to the specific plan originally approved in 2011 include removing a commercial center from the Creeks neighborhood and relocating part of that to the Farms neighborhood; relocating an extension of Dorsey Drive and creating one centrally located signalized intersection rather than two roundabouts on Brunswick Road; creating two pedestrian undercrossings on Brunswick Road and on the Dorsey Drive extension; and earmarking more open space.

Another change has to do with a proposed extension of Dorsey Drive from where it ends at Sutton Way through the Creeks neighborhood to Brunswick Road. Due to power line issues, Dorsey will take a slight jog before continuing across Sutton slightly below where it ends now.

Garrett said that since he came on board in 2009, the project has morphed to decrease the number and size of houses.

“We saw a very big desire for trail systems,” he said, adding the trails will be accessible to the entire community. “We saw that as an opportunity to showcase creek system and the farm with its historic buildings.”

Garrett explained the undercrossings were considered a safer alternative for pedestrians that also foster more connectivity. Some in attendance said they feared underground tunnels would become magnets for crime, and suggested a bridge for the second proposed location near Olympia Creek. Garrett and a project engineer, however, said due to infrastructure issues such a bridge would be prohibitively expensive.

Commissioner Tom Ivy pushed Garrett to include a more affordable housing component, saying, “I feel like I have a duty to the town I grew up in, to address that.”

Garrett cited construction costs and the need to have a 10 percent profit margin to secure a loan as some of the reasons for the pricing.

The developer was defended by local contractor Keoni Allen, who called previous developers on the project “land speculators.”

Garrett, Allen said, is “the real deal, a developer who knows how to get a project designed to fit the community.”

Planning Commissioner Yolanda Cookson noted she was on the city council when the project was approved.

“There was a lot of back and forth,” she said. “This is the first time there has been a developer that stayed with the project and I’m thankful for that. I know we’re not going to make you a gazillionaire, but you’ve invested your time and effort and you’re still willing to have that conversation. Thank you for sticking with us.”

Cookson reminded those in attendance that the planning commission’s role was simply to make a recommendation to the council, adding, “If you want to continue this conversation, you need to go to the council.”

According to Last, the project likely will be on the agenda at the April 23 council meeting.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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