Baltimore Ravine access sent back to Planning Commission

Resident project appeal denied by unanimous vote
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn City Council voted 4-1 after a laborious Thursday night to task the Planning Commission with studying different main access points for Baltimore Ravine. The meeting began at 6 p.m. and ran until 11:45 p.m. Auburn resident Sally Ough said she had to leave the meeting at 10 p.m., because she was tired, but she wanted to stay long enough to hear some public comment. Councilman Kevin Hanley made a motion to keep the Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan at City Council level, but ask city staff and the Planning Commission to analyze two alternative entrance points to Herdal Drive: Pacific Street and south of Pacific Street, Hanley said. “If the city council adopted one of the Pacific Street access alternatives instead of Herdal Drive, we would treat current residents the same as future residents,” Hanley said. “I see no problem from the standpoint of fire engine access into the site if we adopt one of the Pacific Street access points.” Hanley said his motion also included recommending that staff work with Placer County to come to an agreement on funding improvements for the Indian Hill Road and Interstate 80/Newcastle Road intersection. Mayor Bill Kirby said he voted against sending the access point issue back to the Planning Commission, because he believes Herdal is the best entrance for the project. “Kevin Hanley tried to make his motion so (the Planning Commission) wouldn’t consider all the options,” Kirby said. “The bottom line is Herdal has been considered as an access point for forever.” Kirby said he hopes the commission will still look at all the entrance options, not just the Pacific Street possibilities. Kirby said the Pacific Street entrances also pose a very indirect route to the development as well as the city having to take over land it doesn’t already own. “A long windy, hilly access in my opinion clearly is not going to be superior,” he said. “If we go the other two routes, we have to go eminent domain and condemnation.” Auburn City Council members and citizens spent several hours asking tough questions about the Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan and Study Areas Project Thursday night. Kirby said he hopes the Planning Commission will consider the motion soon. No other parts of the project were officially approved Thursday. The council faced an appeal by Mark Smith, a former Auburn planning commissioner, as well as possible approval of the Baltimore Ravine project. In a unanimous vote, the council denied Smith’s appeal. “He wanted the whole project denied,” Hanley said Friday morning. “This option is not realistic. The city has said since the 1970s that the Baltimore Ravine area can be developed as long as it’s a master plan community and it’s a good plan. That’s why we have extensive environmental, cultural resources and traffic analyses done. The real question last night was whether the specifics in the Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan and its phased development would be good for current and future residents of Auburn.” The Council Chambers at City Hall were packed Thursday with opponents and proponents of the proposed several-hundred home housing development. The council was confronted with approving Plan Area 1 for development and approving guidelines for Plan Area 2. If an interest in development were expressed, Plan Area 2 would have to go through the Planning Commission and City Council public hearing process before being completely approved. Based on points from the city’s report, Councilman Kevin Hanley asked staff why access to the project through Herdal Drive was chosen over access through Pacific Street. “Why does cost to developer and disturbance of acres of woodland kind of outweigh the benefits of not disrupting the Herdal neighborhood?” Hanley asked. Adrienne Graham, consulting planner for the city, said a road off Pacific Street would be a more hilly and indirect way to reach the site. “I think the overriding consideration for staff is that really (Herdal) is the most direct way,” Graham said. “This route will get fire engines in this site … much more quickly and efficiently than going through (the Pacific Street) area.” Graham said she believed it was also the opinion of Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi that Herdal was the best entrance. Hanley said that opinion was not included in the staff report. “What I read into it is we believe the cost of additional roadway construction, disturbance of the woodlands, bridges … are more important values than if we shifted the access and did not disturb the Herdal neighborhood, and now what I’m hearing from you is that it’s a public safety issue,” Hanley said. When Mayor Bill Kirby questioned D’Ambrogi about what entrance to the development he thought was best for the fire department, D’Ambrogi stated he chose Herdal. “If for some reason Herdal was blocked, you feel safe with that emergency access (through Perry Ranch Road)?” Councilman Keith Nesbitt asked. “Correct,” D’Ambrogi said. Councilwoman Bridget Powers asked how the environment, including the ravine, would be protected if the development did go through. Graham said two rare plants were already discovered on the property and would be protected, and mitigation would be put in place to make sure residents’ backyard runoffs did not flow into the ravine. In his statement to the council, Smith said he didn’t think the analysis of the project looked at the cumulative impacts of 18 other approved developments in the city, some of which have not yet been built. Smith mentioned many things he felt were not analyzed with the other projects in mind, including traffic. “When you take these projects that are approved and (bring) them together and then add the impact of Baltimore Ravine, we are going to have a (severe) impact on traffic flow,” he said. The Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan project is planned to include 725 homes, 90,000 square feet of commercial space and 143 acres of open space. Plan Area 1 is currently proposed for development. This area calls for 270 housing units and 54.5 acres of open space. The project’s study areas could include an additional 65 homes. Baltimore Ravine is located in South Auburn between the westbound Union Pacific Railroad track to the south, Auburn-Folsom Road to the east and Interstate 80 to the north and northwest. The main access for Plan Area 1 is scheduled to be constructed off Herdal Drive. If Plan Area 1 were developed, Rogers Lane would serve as a temporary secondary access point. Once 76 units were built the developer would construct a road connecting Herdal Drive and Werner Road. Perry Ranch Road would serve as a permanent emergency access road. Reach Bridget Jones at