Parker Development officials unveiled proposals for four large residential projects this week. If approved and built, the projects will further shape the community Bill Parker helped define, pumping more than $1 billion into the local economy, bringing jobs and providing rooftops local business owners say they need to survive.
El Dorado Hills is young enough that some of its creators are still around. Founder Alan Lindsay is gone, but the next two in line — Tony Mansour and Bill Parker — are still here, having apparently survived another recession, eager to resume plans that have sat on the drawing board for years.
Parker is 1,000 lots shy of completing Serrano, the planned community he launched 22 years ago. The current proposed projects will likely take at least that long, he said.
He credits some good years at the front end of the housing bubble for providing him the wherewithal to launch Marble Valley, Serrano Westside and Pedregal.
The three projects made their first official appearance at the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 13, when proponents asked and were granted permission to hire an environmental consultant. It was the formal initiation of what will likely be a contentious, multi-year approval process.
Westside and Pedregal are infill projects designed to reflect and accentuate their environs. They provide parks and trail amenities that connect to El Dorado Hills Town Center, the Raley’s Center and the struggling La Borgatta.
Marble Valley contains long-ignored mining relics, including a century-old lime kiln and a dramatic obelisk, both of which will be preserved and accentuated as attractions that include an outdoor amphitheater, event center and historical park. The project also pays homage to the El Dorado County wine country, and will feature working vineyards along a scenic gateway mile and a wine information and sales center that will feature local products.
The proposals evolved during an unprecedented year-and-a-half of multi-hour project briefings and site tours for neighbors, local officials and civic groups, a total of 66 meetings and 43 site tours.
Large custom lots on the site boundaries became wildlife corridors. Trail amenities were altered, and Native American history was added to the mining history in a planned cultural center.
Legacy in the making
Parker gave his vice president of construction, Tom Howard, a blank slate and orders to come up with a harmonious design that showed the land in its best light, while creating affordable, easily accessed, walkable communities with target amenities that would attract residents and visitors alike.
“Bill asked me to put together the best project I could,” said Howard. “I had no target acreage or unit numbers … we added it all up when we were done.”
In short, Parker asked Howard to create a legacy that they’ll share not only with each other, but with El Dorado Hills and the entire county.
But first they’ve got to get it approved.
Marble Valley and Lime Rock are being proposed as separate specific plans. Serrano Westside and Pedregal were combined into a third, the Central El Dorado Hills Specific Plan. The approval process will run separately but simultaneously for all three specific plans, each of which will require an environmental impact report.
El Dorado County General Plan amendments are required to change proposed land uses.
On Tuesday the proponents asked the Board of Supervisors to initiate the process by approving the environmental consultants who will measure the impacts and propose mitigations. The item was passed as part of the consent calendar. They hope to hold pubic scoping meetings in March 2013. Draft EIRs could be available as soon as October 2013.
Multiple public hearings will be held before approval of the final EIRs, which the proponents hope to achieve by the end of 2014.
Owners of property within 500 feet of any of the proposed projects will receive a letter within the next week that recaps the approval process and invites them to sign up for detailed project briefings, which are available to the general public as well.
Project websites containing the presentation are available online at parkerdevco.com. Select “developments” and then select a project to sign up for a briefings or view the presentation.
Marble Valley: The historic and uninhabited 2,341-acre valley extends 4.1 miles southeast of Highway 50, briefly visible between the Bass Lake Road and Cambridge Road interchanges, both of which are slated for makeovers that will let them serve the project without creating undue congestion.
The proposed plan supports between 2,307 and 3,235 dwellings, most of which are clustered around a 60-acre, mixed-use village center built around the 10-acre lake — a strategy that keeps infrastructure costs down.
The freeway proximity, low carbon footprint and recycled water make the project green enough to potentially qualify as a “Sustainable Community,” under the state greenhouse gas initiatives, according to the project presentation.
The lake could be used to store recycled water. The valley also includes bountiful wildlife and spectacular views. A planned 500-acre foundation park at the south end will contain hiking and bicycling trails.
Like its sister projects to the west, and its adopted brother, Lime Rock, to the north, Marble Valley will provide trail connections to surrounding environs, including the El Dorado Trail and Bass Lake Road.
A large, freeway-visible site for the long-planned Marble Valley Center for the Arts sits at the entrance. The site could alternatively host an Intel, Blue Shield or Health Net-sized corporate campus.
Howard, an unabashed wine lover, designed Marble Valley as the gateway to the El Dorado County wine country, and included roughly 50 acres of working vineyards, some of which will surround a gateway mile that evokes Fair Play or Somerset.
Serrano Westside: The 155-acre area westward extension of Serrano encompasses the former golf course along El Dorado Hills Boulevard and extends north past the fire station. The plan includes between 523 to 763 diverse dwellings designed to appeal to an aging population and shifting demographics — modest-sized stand alone houses on the east side with progressively denser and more affordable options to the west (townhomes, half-plex homes, condominiums and apartments).
Parker calls Westside “mixed use without the commercial,” because of its proximity to and support of the three adjoining retail centers. The trail system links directly to La Borgata and Raley’s, and includes a dramatic footbridge over the freeway, linking Town Center as well.
A repurposed eastern Park Drive provides primary access to Westside, punching through between Sienna and the Raley’s center, providing improved visibility and access to both.
The plan includes provisions for extending Park Drive through Serrano, all the way to Bass Lake Road, completing an important leg of the long dreamed-of frontage road connector between Folsom and Cameron Park.
This development also features a 15-acre, freeway-adjacent El Dorado Hills Community Services District park large enough for two soccer fields and a baseball diamond. The fields could be illuminated for nighttime play with little negative impact to existing residents, according to Howard, and a positive impact to nearby Steve’s Pizza and Yogaberry.
Pedregal: The 102-acre oak-and-granite studded parcel east of Ridgeview Drive lies hidden between Gillette Drive and Wilson Boulevard. It is designated for high density residential development in the county General Plan, but Howard proposes just 56 homes beneath the ridge, all set back on large lots, almost completely out of sight from their Ridgeview neighbors.
He also proposes an upscale multi-family lot on El Dorado Hills Boulevard, likely an apartment complex compatible with those currently on either side.
Lime Rock Valley: The Gallo family owns 740 acres north and east of Marble Valley, and has elected to develop them concurrently and cooperatively with Parker Development.
They adapted Howard’s planning paradigms and consultants to create an 800-lot extension of the Marble Valley project, with its own parks and trails, including a direct connection to the El Dorado Trail.
Traffic studies commissioned by Parker Development indicate that the proposed projects will create few, if any traffic problems. Only the short stretch of Latrobe Road in front of Town Center is projected to increase to the critical Level of Service F within the 10 to 30 year project timeframe.
Improvements already planned for the Bass Lake and Cambridge interchanges will more than suffice for the 30-plus year window for the completion of Marble Valley and Lime Rock, according to the studies.
El Dorado Irrigation District has yet to formally weigh in, but Parker Development officials indicate that the Deer Creek Wastewater Plant, adjacent to the Marble Valley project, has ample unused capacity, and EID also has enough water rights to support the proposals.
Parker explained that the cost of transporting that water and the balance of the necessary infrastructure into Marble Valley is one reason the project needs to be much larger than the old 398-lot plan the county adopted for the prior owner.
The as-yet incomplete economic analysis will break out the anticipated jobs and millions of dollars of up-front fees and ongoing property taxes paid to cash-strapped local agencies.
The Gallo family estimated that construction of their 800-lots would generate up to 2,000 direct and indirect jobs — total economic output up to $350 million — and up to $75 million in fees, with an ongoing fiscal benefit as high as $350,000.
Parker’s numbers will be larger, likely exceeding $1 billion in total economic output, based on estimates made early in the planning process.
He nonetheless worries that residents will balk at the size of the projects. “They don’t understand that if I were to propose 1,000 lots in Marble Valley I’d be sued by the attorney general,” he said, a reference to the California’s aggressive enforcement of the housing provisions in the state’s greenhouse gas initiatives.
“If they don’t let us do this, they’ll end up with an even larger development,” he added.
“It sounds like a lot of units, but it’s not really, given the land we’re working with,” said Howard. “We’re not trying to milk the last unit of this. These are realistic proposals that are an appropriate use of the land. I feel good about it.”