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Baltimore Ravine going to City Council

The city doesn’t listen to, doesn’t care about resident concerns, neighbor says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The potential Baltimore Ravine development project could be approved by the Auburn City Council Jan. 13. “My best guess is that, yes, it could be approved by the council, but on the other hand there may be some questions raised that (will result in) the City Council sending it back to the Planning Commission for some additional work,” said Councilman Mike Holmes. “We have to be fairly certain we know what we are doing to approve this particular project. Quite honestly, I think it may be sent back to the Planning Commission for them to do some additional work.” Mayor Bill Kirby said there are several things that could happen at the meeting. “Potentially, it could get approved the way it is, approved with modifications or sent back to the Planning Commission,” Kirby said. 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 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. Resident Norman Chavez, who lives on Norman Way off Herdal, said he doesn’t think any of the construction equipment would be moved through Rogers Lane, so Herdal would be horribly backed up. “All construction, everything is going to be done through Herdal, and that’s a big concern,” Chavez said. Besides potentially approving the Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan and Study Area Project, or deciding whether or not Plan Area 1 can go forward, the City Council is also charged with analyzing an appeal submitted by Mark Smith, a former Auburn planning commissioner. Smith appealed the Planning Commission’s certification of the project’s final environmental impact report and the commission’s approval of Plan Area 1’s large lot tentative map. On the appeal Smith said the Planning Commission did not take into account the other deserted projects that are already affecting Auburn. “(There is a) lack of incorporation of all previously approved variances and projects approved that impact Auburn and the region in terms of: 1. Transportation and circulation and Luther Road/ Dairy Road/Auburn Ravine Road and Elm Avenue. 2. Public enforcement (schools, law enforcement, fire, parks). 3. Public utilities (water supply, PCWA, PG&E, sewer). 4. Hydrology and water quality, and 5. Noise and vibration,” Smith wrote in the appeal. “All these impacts and changes change the quality of life in Auburn.” Smith said Wednesday there are too many vacancies in the city right now for this type of project. “Bottom line is we have a huge vacancy rate for commercial property,” he said. “(The city) is not looking at the impact (of the project) on a cumulative basis.” Smith mentioned the vacant business buildings on Elm Avenue and High Street as examples. Smith said he thinks residents need to voice their opinions at the upcoming meeting. “I think our community definitely needs to be enlightened on this project, on what it’s going to do to our community,” he said. Gena Wiskus, whose home backs up to the property, said she has seen some of her neighbors move away as a result of the potential development, and residents are frustrated about the city’s decisions so far. “They are certainly not listening to us,” Wiskus said. “What are you going to do? Why even go to the meetings? They are going to do what they are going to do. They don’t care.” Terry Davis, conservation program coordinator for the Mother Lode Chapter of the Sierra Club, which supports Baltimore Ravine, said the project is the most sensitive development the community could hope for. “It is going to have a lot of open space that is retained,” Davis said. “I think that people who bought homes, that area has been slated for development for 32 years, so people who have bought homes since then, they should have known there was going to be development there. People are unhappy about traffic, and that’s understandable, but it’s inevitable. Within city limits is where growth should go.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com