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Baltimore Ravine gets Planning Commission approval

Residents share multitude of concerns at hearing
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A plan to build hundreds of homes in Auburn moved forward after the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve it, despite some residents’ concerns. Two parts of the Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan and Study Area project were approved Tuesday night at an Auburn Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission was given the task of either approving or denying two parts of the potential development: the certification of the final environmental impact report and the large lot tentative map. The other parts of the project need to be approved by the City Council, and any Planning Commission approvals could be moot depending on the decision of the council. In a 4-0 vote the commissioners approved the two items and recommended approval of the project to the City Council. Commissioner Fred Vitas was absent. The entire Baltimore Ravine 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. There is no current timeframe of when plan area 2 would come up for development. Baltimore Ravine is located between the westbound Union Pacific Railroad track to the south, Auburn-Folsom Road to the east and Interstate 80 to the north and northwest. It is approximately two miles from Downtown Auburn. The project is planned to have a main access point off Herdal Drive with secondary access through Werner Road on the northwest side of the development. Baltimore Ravine will also have an emergency access point through Perry Ranch Road. City staff and contractors made a report of several topics including primary access to the project, traffic and historical resources and sites. Issues of how city and county control of Indian Hill Road maintenance would affect increased traffic if the development were built out were discussed Tuesday night. Other topics from the hearing included any site surveyors possibly working with the Nisenan Native American people to make sure potential native sites were being preserved and construction workers being trained on what to do if historic artifacts were uncovered during development. Concerned residents also spoke about over-population in schools and a higher demand on Auburn police officers and firefighters if the development should be approved. Stephen Des Jardins, the developer for the project, said he thought only the impacts of Plan Area 1 should be considered Tuesday, because it is the only area currently up for development. Des Jardins said he was proud of the project, because of the support it had received from an environmental organization. “In my entire career I have never had a project endorsed by the Sierra Club,” Des Jardins said. Mark Smith, an Auburn resident and former planning commissioner, said he had several concerns about the project, including the traffic it would create. Smith said he wished current traffic conditions had been studied during the afternoon just after schools were dismissed instead of for two hours in the morning and two hours in the late afternoon. “The traffic by the courthouse is almost stop and go (after school),” Smith said. Smith said he thinks the city needs to focus on repairing current problems rather than taking on a new development. “My true feeling is if you want to keep Auburn’s small-town charm … I ask the Planning Commission to really take a close look at this project,” he said. “I think we better take a look at what is broken in our community and fix it.” Anyone who wants to know when the potential development will appear before City Council should call the Auburn Community Development Department at (530) 823-4211, ext. 3 and watch future editions of the Journal. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com