This is the second part of a two-part guest column submitted by Preserve EDH members.
By Patrick Ronan
El Dorado Hills is at a crossroad. Several projects currently being considered by the planning commission would drastically alter the character of our town. Will the residents of El Dorado Hills remain silent while developers attempt to wrangle from the county their desired alterations to existing plans? We need to mobilize to ensure that our needs, desires and opinions are heard and taken into account.
The most prominent of these projects are the proposed changes to Town Center West (the land south of Highway 50, west of Latrobe Road, north of White Rock Road and east of the existing residential neighborhoods.) The owner of the land is attempting to change the entire make up of the planned development (PD95-02), in place since 1995. Hundreds of homeowners relied upon this planned development when deciding to purchase their homes. It was this well-planned and carefully crafted agreement between the developer and the county that provided the homeowners (in the words of the county) “protection” from intense and objectionable uses (i.e. ancillary retail and light manufacturing). In this limited space it is impossible to accurately summarize the entire PD95-02 document, or the memorandums written by the county Planning Services department and even the developers own marketing material – but they can be read, unedited at Preserveedh.org.
El Dorado Hills was conceived as a “Town with a Plan” in the words of the Mansour Company, the developer of Town Center West. It is this plan that is now under fire from the developer, a plan they originally helped design and put into place. The guidelines governing this development are the epitome of smart growth and intelligent development. The plan clearly placed low impact professional office use next to the existing residential neighborhoods. These offices were to be used as a “buffer zone” against the more intense uses allowed in the planning areas further from the neighborhoods. Along with this were also large setbacks, special lighting, landscaping and other design elements. Now the developer is asking the county to throw out this design, cancel the agreement and allow them to build over 350,000 square feet of retail right against the residential property lines – all while attempting to reduce the already agreed to mitigation elements!
Should a downturn in the economy, or the personal fortunes of one development company, be sufficient reason to ignore the smart growth principles upon which El Dorado Hills has been built? Preserveedh.org answers with a resounding NO.
In a recent article in the Village Life, Tony Mansour was quoted as saying “Either I give it to the bank, let them cut it up so some offshore investor can buy the note and build what they want, or ask this community to trust me.” Our response is simple: if you can’t afford to build the development as planned and agreed to, give the note to whoever will pay you for it, because the plan will remain intact – it won’t go away because the land has been sold.
Our community’s trust in the developer is greatly strained. The county has already rebuked his attempt at building a “Home Depot” type store on the property once. After this rebuke the Mansour Company assured neighbors that they had heard our concerns and reiterated their commitment to the original plan. As recently as a year ago, the Mansour Company met with at least two separate neighborhood organizations to calm fears of development when they began grading the land – both times neighbors were asked to trust them, that they had no intention of altering the plan – yet here we are again.
Town Center West is not the only development with significant impact to residential neighborhoods in El Dorado Hills; the proposed rezones from residential to general commercial near Francisco Oaks and the land between Oak Meadow School and Highway 50 on Silva Valley are more examples. It is time for El Dorado Hills’ residents to have a louder voice in determining the course of our future – to learn more or get involved please visit Preserveedh.org