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City Council approves Baltimore Ravine

To call project smart growth is ‘absurd,’ councilman says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The Baltimore Ravine development will go forward. In a 4-1 vote the Auburn City Council approved the Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan and Study Areas project Monday night. Plan Area 1 of the project includes 270 housing units and 54.5 acres of open space. Plan Area 2 is set to include 455 homes, 90,000 square feet of commercial space and 143 acres of open space. The project’s study areas could include another 65 homes. The council approved Plan Area 1 for development. It approved a master plan for Plan Area 2 and the Study Areas. There is no current timeframe of when either would come up for development, but they would have to go back to City Council for final approval. Stephen Des Jardins, the developer for the infrastructure of the project, said he thought home construction in Plan Area 1 could begin in 2013 or 2014. Councilman Kevin Hanley voted against the development. The council also unanimously approved several amendments to the project including re-evaluating the financial aspect of how much money the development will cost over time and how much its residents would be taxed to pay for that cost. The amendments also included visual and accessibility improvements to Herdal Drive and the completion of the Herdal-Werner connecter before the first housing building permit is pulled. City Council members and residents had varying opinions about the project at Monday night’s meeting. Public comment was limited to the entry points for the project. At the Feb. 15 Planning Commission meeting, a 2-0 vote recommended Herdal offered better access than two alternatives off Pacific Street and off Auburn-Folsom Road 750 feet south of Pacific Street. Hanley said he felt seven areas of the development were lacking. Hanley said because the council’s decision would not only approve Plan Area 1 of Baltimore Ravine, but also create a master plan for Plan Area 2 and the Study Areas, he was uncomfortable making a swift decision. “I support a Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan that incorporates high standards and joins residents to neighboring communities in town,” Hanley said. “I think if we mess up tonight, we might not be able to clean up certain aspects.” Hanley said one of his concerns was that the development would “overburden” Herdal Drive, which is planned as one of the project’s main access points. During Monday’s meeting, Stephen Des Jardins, developer for the infrastructure of the project, said he would plan on using his easement over the Herdal extension, whether the city decided on an alternative to that ingress or not. Hanley said he was disappointed the city really had no choice about this access. “Herdal will be used or the city will be sued, and we will lose the case,” he said. Hanley said he thought it was “absurd” to call the project “smart growth” because of the 90,000 square feet of commercial space in the future Plan Area 2. Hanley said it didn’t make sense that the majority of traffic coming from that commercial core would be going over the bridge crossing Bloomer Cut and out through Herdal. Ed Pandolfino, of the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, said while the group has sued developers over projects in the past, it supports the Baltimore Ravine project. Pandolfino said other access points previously suggested did not make sense. He said they would also have a greater impact on the environment around them than Herdal would. “When I look at the alternative access routes … they really are not realistic alternatives,” Pandolfino said. Separate from the project the council asked city staff to have talks with Placer County about traffic on Indian Hill Road as well as looking into traffic problems on Auburn-Folsom Road. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com