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Impact report ready for residents

Baltimore Ravine to go through several steps to get approved, planner says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn residents now have a chance to learn and comment about the possible 725-home development in Baltimore Ravine. The four-pound environmental impact report addresses concerns of an explosion of traffic, possible displacement and death of wildlife and cancer-causing air contaminants among other topics. The purpose of the report is to present possible impacts on the environment by the development and ways those impacts could be brought down to an acceptable level if needed, according to Reg Murray, senior planner for the city of Auburn. 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. Baltimore Ravine is made up of two planning areas. Planning area 1 is currently being proposed for development. There is no current time frame for when planning area 2 would be developed. The environmental report covers the impact of both planning areas. The entire Baltimore Ravine project calls for 725 housing units, 90,000 square feet of commercial spaces and 143 acres of open space. Planning area 1 calls for 270 housing units and 54.5 acres of open space. Transportation Residents have concerns traffic could explode on Auburn-Folsom Road. Area 1 is currently planned to have an access point off Auburn-Folsom Road through Herdal Drive with a bridge over the railroad’s Bloomer Cut area on the southeast side of the development. Another access point is planned for a street being called Street D on the northwest side of the area. The report states that if the project is approved signage on Herdal Drive would reflect a speed limit of 25 mph and other “traffic calming measures” would be enforced. A split-street design with landscaping would help lessen noise for neighbors on Herdal Drive, according to Stephen Des Jardins, developer for the project. The T-intersections at Ophir Road/Lazanos Road and Auburn-Folsom Road/Indian Rancheria Road would operate as normal during peak hours of the day, so further analysis of the intersections was not conducted, according to the report. Reg Murray, senior planner for the city of Auburn, said while the development would bring more traffic, it wouldn’t make Auburn feel like a San Francisco-type city. “This is not a big-city development,” Murray said. “This is typical to other developments we see in Auburn. Is there going to be more traffic? Yes. Is it going to be anything outside the norm? I don’t think so.” Mark Smith, a former Auburn planning commissioner, said the full project in both planning areas would bring a negative, big-city feel by cramming more cars onto a road that is already extensively used. “If you take the minimum of two cars per household, just for housing, that is 1,450 more cars on Auburn-Folsom Road,” Smith said. “Highway 49 will look like a cake walk compared to what Auburn-Folsom will be.” Wildlife Wildlife on the development could be displaced or even killed. Several species of plants and animals, including some listed as special-status, either live or could potentially live in the full project development area. Special status means the plants and animals could be on an endangered, threatened, rare or protected lists. Some of these species include the California red-legged frog, western pond turtle and Townsend’s big-eared bat. According to the report there is a low to moderate chance the frog could be affected by this development and a moderate chance the turtle and bat could be affected. Other non-special-status species including deer, rattlesnakes, lizards and various species of birds would be displaced by this project, according to the report. Adrienne Graham, consulting planner for the city of Auburn, said if the current project and future project for plan area 2 are approved and special-status species are found on the property, mitigation measures would be enforced to insure their safety. Graham said the non-special-status species would have plenty of land to live on in the area 1 development, because about half the project is open space. “You are not going to see such a drop in that species that they would be at risk of becoming endangered,” she said. Auburn resident Bart Ruud said people should not assume we have the right to move animals from their habitats. “(Development) doesn’t necessarily mean we have the right to displace animals,” Ruud said. “People act as if they don’t care about the wildlife. Those animals have a right to live, too.” Air Quality Residents are worried about cancer from train emissions. Plan area 1 is located between the westbound and eastbound lines of the Union Pacific Railroad. The full project containing plan area 1 and 2 is proposed to include the development of houses within 500 feet of both tracks. Locomotive emissions could cause potential cancer risks, according to the report The report states the amount of emissions calculated for the full project site result in 24 people out of one million being at risk for cancer. The development would not create any new odors in the area, but new residents could experience existing odors due to the proximity of the City of Auburn Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Livingston’s Concrete Batch Plant, according to the report. Construction of the development in plan area 1 could have a significant impact on ozone development through the emission of nitrogen oxides, according to the report. The report lists 11 possible ways to lower this air quality impact. Graham said the distance of houses from Union Pacific tracks due to the railroad’s 400-foot-right-of-way property on which developments can’t be built, and the fact that trains aren’t idling on the tracks, lowers the impact train emissions could have on residents. “The farther you get from the source (the impact from emissions) drops off quite a bit,” Graham said. “In this case the trains are moving through. They are not sitting there spewing, and that makes a big difference too.” Auburn resident Mike Emmert, who lives on Herdal Drive, said he isn’t convinced it’s safe to live so close to the tracks, because he continues to see government-mandated advertisements that tell him otherwise. “I don’t know whether there is or there isn’t a danger there from a scientific standpoint,” Emmert said. “Here is what I do know: I know that the Union Pacific Railroad continues to run ads in the media that they are throwing carcinogens in the air.” Commenting about the report Residents interested in reading the environmental impact report for the Baltimore Ravine specific plan can purchase a disc copy at City Hall for $5 or a hard copy for $75. The report is also available for viewing at the library and download on the city’s website at auburn.ca.gov. Residents who would like to inform the city of their thoughts on the adequacy of the environmental impact report can send written comments to Adrienne Graham at City of Auburn, Community Development Department, 1225 Lincoln Way, Room 3, Auburn, CA, 95603. Comments will be accepted through July 23. A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 13 in City Council Chambers at City Hall. The hearing is being held for the Auburn Planning Commission to hear comments from the public about the environmental impact report only. No action will be taken at this hearing. Murray said he wants residents to know that the project still has to go through several planning stages and get an approval vote from City Council before construction could start. Des Jardins said if the project is approved on the plan area 1 site, he is hoping to begin infrastructure construction by 2012. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ---------------------------------------------------- Diamond Creek Partners Ltd. Stephen Des Jardins is the president of Diamond Creek Partners Ltd. and developer for the Baltimore Ravine development. Des Jardins developed the Diamond Creek housing development in Roseville. The property also includes La Provence restaurant. Des Jardins also worked on the Galleria Mall project. In May 2008 Diamond Creek Partners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after lender Umpqua Bank threatened to take foreclosure action because of a delinquent $26.9 million loan. Diamond Creek emerged from bankruptcy after coming to an agreement about how to pay its creditors. Des Jardins said Auburn residents don’t need to be concerned about the Roseville project’s bankruptcy. “This is not Diamond Creek,” Des Jardins said. “This is a whole other entity. In global economic recession there are a whole lot of people that go in (to bankruptcy) and don’t come out. Diamond Creek went in and did in fact come out.” Des Jardins said if any Auburnites want to know more about him and the way he builds they can look at the Roseville projects. “If someone wants to know who I am and the kind of projects I do, I’d say go to Diamond Creek, and look at the architectural amenities it offers,” he said. “Now after you look at who I am … look at this (Baltimore Ravine specific plan). It’s a stand-alone document.”