Battle lines are being drawn on the proposed Marble Valley and Lime Rock Valley projects, which would eventually put 4,368 dwellings in four-plus miles running southeast from the Bass Lake Road freeway interchange.
Parker Development, which also faces domestic unrest over plans to develop the former El Dorado Hills Executive Golf Course, faces attack on its eastern front by anti-growth forces stirring up opposition in Cameron Park. Former El Dorado County supervisor Bill Center and accomplished political pollster Jim Moore, the most visible faces behind Measure Y, outlined their opposition to the projects to receptive residents of the Cameron Estates Community Services District on May 16.
A confident Moore assured the audience that his research showed “at least four of five” supervisors oppose the Marble Valley projects and asked, “What’s the best way to stall these big projects?”
Proposed densities for Parker’s Marble Valley and the Gallo Family’s Lime Rock, plus the hotly contested 1,040-lot San Stino project in rural Shingle Springs and the 700-home Dixon Ranch project off Bass Lake Road in El Dorado Hills, require General Plan amendments and rezoning. A recalcitrant El Dorado County Board of Supervisors has become increasingly insistent on completing the Land Use Programmatic Policy Update process before considering any new General Plan land use changes.
LUPPU belatedly implements land-use measures in the 2004 General Plan and includes new traffic modeling software that should provide better measures of the proposed projects’ traffic impacts.
During a May 7 board meeting District 3 Supervisor Brian Veerkamp suggested taking a formal “time out” on big projects until LUPPU is complete. “You can call it a moratorium if you want,” Veerkamp said. “We need to let these things play out in a logical way.”
The former El Dorado Hills Fire Chief said he also has concerns about water availability based on El Dorado Irrigation District’s most recent Integrated Water Resources Master Plan.
Parker Development bought the land from the Cowell Foundation in 2001 and sought approval for roughly 1,300 homes; then-board members OK’d 398 lots. The recently reworked Marble Valley proposal calls for 3,568 dwellings, including single family, condos and townhomes, over the next 20 to 30 years. Gallo’s 740-acre Lime Rock Valley Specific plan adds another 800 single-family homes to the mix.
Both share a rich mining history and are vacant and isolated.
Of 2,341 acres in Marble Valley, approximately two-thirds are dedicated to open space, parks, vineyards and schools, with 798 acres for homes and 17 acres of commercial land. Amenities include a 500-acre passive park, 10-acre lake, lakeside amphitheater, a working vineyard, a wine center featuring El Dorado County products, a park commemorating the history of the lime business and an event center at the dramatic monolith rock formation.
Moore predicted that either Veerkamp or District 4 Supervisor Ron Briggs would propose an advisory ballot measure on the November ballot to test public opinion on each of the four large project proposals.
“We’ll do a couple mailers and it will be over,” Moore said, predicting that the projects would lose in a landslide and send a clear message to the supervisors.
But Veerkamp said he wanted to let the existing plan and implementation processes play out, and would rather “stay away from any advisory votes.”
Getting a jump on his predictions, Moore launched the first mailer — 6,500 pieces attacking the Marble Valley projects signed by Center, fellow former supervisor Sam Bradley and Cameron Park CSD Director Shiva Frentzen.
The letter warned residents that the Marble Valley and Lime Rock projects would increase the Cameron Park area population by 60 percent, to 28,000 people, and add 40,000 daily trips to the commute, without mentioning that the growth might take 30 years.
The preemptive strike in what could become a long and litigious battle also failed to mention “Measure Y requires us to pay our fair share,” said Parker Development spokesman Kirk Bone.
The 2011 Marble Valley Project Briefing Book estimated that road fees for Marble Valley would be $80 million.
“That goes to construct (road) improvements contemplated in the General Plan,” Bone explained. “To the extent that our project triggers additional improvements we pay for those too.
“There’s a process in place,” he added. “Let’s use it. Let’s wait for the new traffic model, plug in our information, analyze it and make a decision.”
But Center and Moore’s agenda is clear. Moore told the Cameron Estates residents in a recording obtained by Village Life, “Our goal is to stop approving parcels for at least 10 years, and save the existing road capacity for jobs projects, granny flats … for the people that are here. All five supervisors are in agreement on that.”
Center and Moore base their opposition on the fact that the General Plan’s Housing Element designates “20,000 approved housing units that haven’t been built yet,” said Moore. “If they approve any more it will just make traffic worse.”
Center explained that county officials assume that only 30 to 60 percent of the 2004 General Plan’s housing inventory will ever be built, and uses that assumption to justify approving new developments. He argues that this “market-based” assumption is wrong, and that all of the housing units in the General Plan housing will be built, resulting in gridlock.
“We believe there is an obligation for the road system to be sufficient to accommodate the traffic from them before we approve new developments,” Center said.
Principal Planner Shawna Purvines defends the market-based approach, by referring to the Land Inventory Summary in Table HO28 of the draft 2013-2021 Housing Element Update, which identifies 20,854 total housing units available countywide.
She points out that 3,724 of those units are on the eastern slope, in the Tahoe Regional Planning Area, and effectively off the table for El Dorado County planning purposes. That leaves parcels for 17,013 housing units, but Purvines emphasizes that the statistic is misleading because it represents “realistic capacity” — the highest density housing the land in question could realistically hold, given the slope, setbacks and other obvious constraints to development.
She carefully explains that much of that land is unlikely to be built to its capacity since roughly one-third of the approved units are on vacant land in rural areas, zoned for higher density than has historically been built.
Jim Brunello chairs the Community and Economic Development Advisory Committee, and argues that El Dorado Hills alone has between 7,000 and 8,000 approved units, mostly in approved specific plans, all very realistic and starting to sell.
Like Veerkamp, he wants to see what the new traffic model has to say about local roadway capacity before approving any big new projects.
He also worries that the proposed housing does not address the problems identified in the General Plan review done in 2011: sales tax leakage, job creation, moderate housing and rural commerce.
Center said he supports Brunello’s efforts on CEDAC, which he believes will ultimately create “houses for people that work here and jobs for people who live here,” he said. “None of those 8,000 units in El Dorado Hills is doing either of those two things.”
Center and Moore have created a website: savecameronpark.org.