Baltimore Ravine plan in Auburn faces tough questions on road access

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A development plan for the wooded Baltimore Ravine area in Auburn is facing hurdles over road access. The plan by Baltimore Ravine Investors of Roseville was given its first public airing Tuesday, drawing a round of questions from Auburn Planning Commission members focusing on how to get vehicles in and out on at least two roads. The last large vacant tract of developable land within Auburn city limits, Baltimore Ravine’s future as a commercial and residential development hinges in part on road access that developer Stephen Des Jardins was frank to admit hadn’t been completely solidified. The main access point for future development of the 406-acre urban reserve would come by extending Herdal Drive, off Auburn Folsom Road. But a necessary second access point for emergency vehicles has not been negotiated with property owners along privately owned Perry Ranch Road. And Des Jardins said bridge plans over the Union Pacific track along a Herdal Drive extension have also yet to be nailed down. The Herdal Drive right of way through Baltimore Ravine owned by Des Jardins' partnership and the Dahlin family appears to be set. But meetings that only started last week with neighbors on how that connection would be developed had one commissioner questioning whether more work needs to be done on securing a secondary route. Commissioner Matt Spokely said he was disappointed meetings with residents in the vicinity of Herdal Drive had started Friday and Saturday. Spokely said he was concerned that the development would have entitlements in place but still no right of way for safe access and exit routes. Originally proposed two years ago as a mix of 1,203 residential units and 120,000 square feet of commercial space on 294 acres, the new specific plan now moving through the city planning approval process calls for 725 residential units and 90,000 square feet of commercial space. Shrinking the development footprint even more, the proposal before the planning commission Tuesday takes in just 130 acres on the southern end of the ravine site. The remaining 147 acres closer to Interstate 80 would be part of a future plan area. Development of the southern end during the first phase of Baltimore Ravine’s buildout would situate 270 detached, single-family homes on 68 acres of the 130-acre plan area. Open space would occupy another 55 acres. A two-acre park, a mix of 455 single-family houses, condominiums and apartments and all of the commercial development would be situated in the second phase. Des Jardins said initial meetings with Herdal Drive neighbors left his development team “with homework to do” on potential road improvements like a landscaped center area that could help build some consensus. Des Jardins said that if he can’t get permission to use Perry Ranch Road – which would link the project via an already constructed tunnel under Interstate 80 to Ophir Road – the next best alternative would be to extend the Herdal Drive connection through to Werner Drive (which also links to Ophir Road) through land now part of what would be the development’s second phase. The Perry Ranch Road connection is also tentative, with Des Jardins telling the meeting that his group hasn’t started discussions with property owners there “because we don’t know what we have at this point.” James and Kim Dahlin, representing family ownership of the second phase property, said that if other access plans don’t work out they’d be amenable to moving forward with the development process on their land – including a Herdal Drive extension. “If there are hurdles on Perry Ranch Road, we’re willing to work out an agreement to continue to plan with Stephen or another developer on Phase 2,” Kim Dahlin said. No action was planned at the meeting and more hearings on the plan and environmental documentation will be held in the new year.