By Shelly Ronan
This is part one of a two-part guest column provided by Preserve EDH members.
Eight years ago my family and I fell in love with El Dorado Hills, its rolling hills, small town feel and community spirit. Our only concern in purchasing our home was the future plans of the undeveloped land next to our new neighborhood. So we went to the county, spoke with current residents and found that there was a plan for the land that showed garden style office buildings along our fence line, mixed in with some light manufacturing and a small amount of retail. Still apprehensive we investigated further and read the actual design guidelines and development standards of the plan (PD-9502).
I am not an expert in real estate but my husband has worked in the industry for more than 10 years, so we felt confident that with a plan as specific and developed as the one governing the land next door in place we would have the type of neighborhood where we could happily raise our family. The plan called for office buildings along our property line, with a fair amount of grading, landscaping, and noise and light reducing elements that we would not be adversely affected by its presence.
Knowing what lay ahead for the land next door we gladly purchased our home, as did my neighbors. We never worried for what the owner might try to change; we were assured that the plan was a part of El Dorado County’s long-standing master plan for El Dorado Hills.
You can understand our dismay two years later when the developer attempted to build a “Home Depot” type store in the land adjacent to our quiet neighborhood. By organizing our friends and neighbors and doing things like attending crucial planning meetings and signing petitions we were able to stop the development. A 4-1 vote of the Planning Commission came out against the development of this retail store. Later, the developer approached the residents and conceded that the store would not fit within the character of El Dorado Hills and informed us they will stick with the original plan; we felt relief but also worried about what the future might hold.
Now six years later, the owner of the land is not only attempting to win the right to alter the uses of the land next door, yet again. They are attempting to so drastically alter the original plan that what will end up along our fence line is not just a “Home Depot,” but enough “big box” retail to handle four Home Depots. It apparently wasn’t enough to be rebuked by the county with an attempt to build 120,000 square feet of retail; they are attempting to build nearly 400,000 square feet!
The developer has had their spin machine in full swing, attempting to convince anyone and everyone who will listen of the benefits of adding 40 percent more retail to El Dorado Hills than what currently exists — this despite the fact more than 150,000 square feet of it currently sits empty! A development such as this is unprecedented in El Dorado County; no other center of this size sits directly next to existing residential neighborhoods.
We hear the argument for more sales tax revenue, but ask what of the reduction in current local retail sales and the adverse affect this will have on hundreds of homes’ property values? Our concern is for the community a large; a change in the use here can easily be the domino that falls and allows for use changes and rezoning elsewhere in El Dorado Hills. As a matter of fact it is already happening!
What we ask is simple: Please stick to the well thought out plan that made El Dorado Hills the town that it is — don’t be blinded by the false promise of tax revenue; don’t make the residents of El Dorado Hills shoulder the burden of big box development for the “purported” good of the rest of the county.
We love this town! We only seek to preserve El Dorado Hills for to good of our community, neighbors, children and ourselves. To learn more visit PreserveEDH.org.