The Planning Commission heartily recommended approval of the 28-acre, 49-home Wilson Estates project, located between Green Valley and Malcolm Dixon Roads in El Dorado Hills, citing it as a model for how developers can work cooperatively with residents.
The couple dozen residents in attendance at the Dec. 13 meeting voiced oft-repeated concerns about traffic volumes on the two pioneer roads that border the project to the north and south, and reiterated the allegation that cumulative impacts of Wilson Estates combined with four other residential projects approved by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors in 2009 and 2010 for the area north of Malcolm Dixon Road have not been measured or mitigated.
The Diamonte, Alto, Omni and La Canada projects total 97 new lots, none less than an acre in size, all on septic systems.
The residents in attendance saved their loudest objections for the Green Valley Center commercial project later in the day. The proposed big box drug store and a fast food restaurant at the corner of Green Valley Road and Francisco Boulevard suffered a project denial by the commissioners.
Wilson Estates parcel owners Ann Wilson, Lisa Vogelsang Catherine Ryan and Julie Ryan hired Dave Crosariol of CTA Engineering as their frontman for both the county and their future Malcolm Dixon neighbors, several of whom thanked him from the podium before speaking against his project.
Crosariol guided the project’s rezone from one-acre residential (R1A), which has a one-acre minimum lot size, to one-family Residential (R1), which allows lot sizes as small as 6,000 square feet — less than one-seventh of an acre.
The tentative subdivision map creates 49 single-family residential lots ranging in size from 10,141 square feet to 62,449 square feet, plus larger frontage landscape and open space lots. Overall density comes to 1.75 residential lots per acre, with an average parcel size of .57 acres, according to meeting discussion.
The parcel lies immediately north of Green Valley Road, 3,000 feet east of Silva Valley Parkway, and includes a north-south connector between Green Valley Road and Malcolm Dixon Road. The connector is located one-third of a mile west of Arroyo Vista Way through the north side of the project, and provides critical access to the other four approved projects, connecting to the future Chartraw Road at Malcolm Dixon Road.
The connector is a key component of a circulation plan mandated by the Board of Supervisors in 2009. Transportation studies that were part of the plan showed that its presence will reduce overall traffic volume on Malcolm Dixon Road, even after the four approved projects, plus Wilson Estates are built, a finding that neighbors, including Vern Miller, refuted.
In several appearances before the Planning Commission in recent years, Miller has patiently explained that most future Wilson Estates residents will prefer the scenic and twisty, but still more direct, Malcolm Dixon Road rather than the connector.
Kelly Garcia, who lives at the west end of the project, whole-heartedly agreed that the majority of trips are to the west, toward El Dorado Hills, Folsom or beyond, and that most of her neighborhood’s new residents will drive west on Malcolm Dixon to at least Allegheny, which connects with Silva Valley Parkway.
Worse still, others will stay on Malcolm Dixon all the way to Salmon Falls Road, she predicted, creating congestion and safety issues at the two historic-and-narrow concrete bridges, while destroying the pastoral country-lane feel of the old pioneer road.
She also reminded the commissioners that both Green Valley and Malcolm Dixon Roads are subject to blinding sunsets and sunrises at peak traffic hours.
“When you look at the cumulative effects of the proposed projects on this area, it’s tragic,” she concluded.
Garcia called for the high density parcels to be returned to medium density zoning as part of the Targeted General Plan Amendment process. “This is the time to fix past mistakes and make the land use consistent,” she said, before reiterating her husband’s prediction that the Wilsons would sell the parcel to someone who might take full advantage of densities available in R1 zoning.
If the project is approved, she asked that access to Malcolm Dixon Road be limited to right turns only.
The Green Valley Alliance formed in reaction to the five projects on Malcolm Dixon, the Green Valley Commercial Center and especially the Dixon Ranch project.
Alliance spokeswoman Cheryl McDougal reported by e-mail that alliance members, along with members of the Area Planning Advisory Council’s Green Valley subcommittee, had meetings with Crosariol.
“We believe that most people will be OK with the Wilson Estates project as it is currently configured/modified,” she said.
Her conditional approval was the result of a major redrawing of the proposed plan, an effort that consumed most of 2012. The final version reduced the number of lots from 56 to 49, eliminated the Planned Development request, revised the sewer, water, grading and oak tree canopy plans, and also eliminated all the original design waiver requests. It also put large acre-plus lots at the east and west side of the parcel as a buffer to the neighbors.
The new plan also mitigates oak tree loss on site, a requirement that arose when the State Appeals Court overturned the offsite mitigation provision in county’s Oak Woodlands Management Plan.
The approved plan requires the removal of just .2 acres of oak canopy, well within county guidelines. At Commissioner Lou Rain’s request, Crosariol agreed that all mitigation plantings would be the jumbo-sized, 15-gallon oaks.
Miller called the project “a gated small island of high density residential housing,” incompatible with in an otherwise rural setting.
Principal Planner Peter Maurer explained that the requested rezone is compatible with the parcel’s high density land use designation.
The parcel and two of its neighbors were designated for medium density until the 1996 General Plan update process, said Maurer.
The Board of Supervisors requested the change, and the addition of the parcels to the El Dorado Hills Community Region, in reaction to pending residential proposals for the parcels at the time, he added.
The parcel’s inclusion in the community region mandates that Wilson Estates have sewer service. Project documents indicate that EID has confirmed that they have ample water and sewer capacity.
John Garcia, whose home boarders the Wilson parcel, thanked Crosariol for his diligent work in the community, and the resulting project changes.
“He did the best he could with a high density project,” he said. “But this community has grave concerns about putting high density here. The owners are going to flip this property … and the next owners are under no obligation to stand by this design.”
Tara McCann, a traffic engineer for Cal Trans who also lives in the area, has become a vocal critic of the county’s unwillingness to address congestion on Green Valley Road, which she called “the elephant in the room.”
She called for the county to address the old road’s limitations before approving any more residential projects in the area.
“It’s egregious to piece-meal these new projects while you ignore this,” she said.
The Wilson project’s sphere of influence doesn’t extend south of Green Valley Road, but McCann contends it should.
She accused county transportation and land use planners of ignoring dangerous conditions at the intersection of Loch Way and Green Valley Road, which is the entrance to the Sterlingshire, Highland Hills and Highland View neighborhoods, located 600 feet west of the project.
Bill Welty is also a Green Valley Alliance spokesman. He asked the commissioners to marry the map to the sale of the property. “Make it a condition of sale,” he said. “Help us keep the density reasonable for all the reasons you heard today.”
Crosariol politely refused. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to saddle any new owner with this particular layout in perpetuity,” he said. “This is still America.”
Projects with more than 50 lots require a planned development overlay, he said, which includes an extra level of discretionary review.
He stood by the cumulative traffic study’s finding that the new connector would reduce “perceived” traffic on Malcolm Dixon Road west of Wilson Estates, and said the road work includes generous turn pockets to protect drivers entering and exiting the project.
Out-going Commissioner Rain indicated early in the hearing that he supported the project, but said, in closing, that he leaves his post with a large concern about traffic volume on Green Valley Road.
“I was really hoping to get a (Green Valley Road) widening out of these projects, but Sterlingshire is outside the sphere of influence, and we can’t put it all on the back of Wilson,” he said.
Commissioner Dave Pratt suggested lowering and enforcing the speed limit on Green Valley Road to address safety concerns.
Commissioner Walter Mathews spoke to the neighbors directly. “My heart goes out to you – I wouldn’t want high density next to me either,” he said. “That’s why I live out in the country.
“We can’t make these decisions based on what the neighbors think,” he continued, pointing out that the density decreased and the entire project was altered to address their concerns with light and noise, unlike other applicants facing local resistance who return to the commission without changing anything.
The commissioners agreed that the project before them was well-designed, and voted unanimously to support it. The next stop for Wilson Estates is the Board of Supervisors. No date was set for the hearing.