With the local housing industry trying to sputter back to life, a Jan. 20 ruling by the Third District Court of Appeals threw a curve to local developers with plans in the works.
On Thursday, Jan. 28, the El Dorado County Planning Commission recommended approval of a 20-lot project near the county line, and continued the contested 56-parcel Wilson project, located on the south side of Malcolm Dixon Road.
But the bigger news was that the Third District Court of Appeals rejected provisions in the county’s draft Oak Woodland Conservation Ordinance that would have allowed developers to mitigate oak tree removal by paying an “in-lieu” fee to conserve oaks on more remote parcels.
The so-called “Option B” was popular with developers and unpopular with environmental and no-growth groups, including the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, the El Dorado County Taxpayers for Quality Growth, and the California Oak Foundation, who filed the lawsuit.
“Option A” requires on-site mitigation of removed oaks, and involves replanting and monitoring new and existing trees.
The “Traviso II” project will put 20 lots on 6.98 vacant acres behind a gate on Via Traviso Road, west of the La Cresta Village neighborhood in western El Dorado Hills. It includes 2.27 acres of open space. The El Dorado County General Plan designates the area for high-density residential development.
One of the lots will be 1.4 acres. The other 19 are a minimum of 5,296 square feet, according to planning documents.
The applicant, Ridgeview Homes West, originally planned to mitigate the oak loss by paying the in-lieu fees. With the news late Friday that the off-site option is now off the table, Dave Crosariol, president of CTA Engineering & Surveying in Rancho Cordova, told commissioners that he hired an arborist who has confirmed that the project’s oak canopy removal could be mitigated onsite under the terms of “Option A.”
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the Traviso II project, which will go to the Board of Supervisors within 30 days.
The second El Dorado Hills project scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission was the proposed Wilson Estates project — 58 homes on a 28-acre parcel between Green Valley and Malcolm Dixon roads in northern El Dorado Hills. The three lots wrap around the LDS Church immediately north of the intersection of Loch Way and Green Valley Road.
Proposed lot sizes range from 8,611 square feet to 24,683 square feet. The project includes a new “connector” road between Malcolm Dixon Road and Green Valley Road, but access to the homes would be from the historic and still rural-feeling Malcolm Dixon Road.
Residents have opposed other planned projects in the area, which the county has designated for residential development in various densities. The General Plan designates the three lots that make up the Wilson project as “high-density residential,” suitable for single family homes in densities from one to five unites per acre. The overall density of the Wilson project is just more than two units per acre.
The El Dorado County Department of Transportation previously established a circulation plan for the area that calls for road widening and improved intersections to handle the anticipated traffic from the proposed projects.
But residents in the area already complain that their rural road has become a shortcut and they’ve said they worry that the increased traffic will impact them, perhaps literally, and destroy the rural feel of their micro-community.
Despite word that the Wilsons would request a continuance “off agenda,” several familiar faces were in the audience Thursday, letting the Wilsons and the commissioners know that they’d face stiff opposition when the project returned.
El Dorado Hills activist Tara McCann asked the board to hear pubic comments on the project, but deputy county counsel Paula Franz recommended against it since the project hadn’t been submitted to them yet.
Doreen Barton told the commissioners she had “a lot more issues [with the Wilson project] than just the oak trees.”