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Placer County, grassroots groups settle long-standing Foresthill community plan feud

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The two sides in a longstanding wrangle over the direction of future growth along the Foresthill Divide have reached a settlement. The agreement spells out a series of amendments to the Foresthill Divide Community Plan that pledge no widespread development would occur in the near future, fire-protection measures would match growth, and views from river canyons would remain unsullied by ridge-top home construction. Supervisors adopted the community plan in December 2008 and the board voted 4-0 in closed session Tuesday to approve the settlement with Foresthill Residents for Responsible Growth (FROG) and Friends of the North Fork. The two sides had locked legal horns since the two non-profits filed a superior court lawsuit against the plan in January 2009. Sherry Wicks, FROG spokeswoman and a 32-year Foresthill resident, said the alternative to the settlement would have been a lengthy and costly re-opening of the Foresthill community plan process. The current plan had been hammered out over nearly a decade, with rancorous debate over the level of growth and the presence of a Forest Ranch proposal that has called for construction of more than 2,000 homes. “Neither side got all that it wanted but, hopefully, this will be really good for the community,” Wicks said. “We now feel we have a collaborative effort moving forward.” Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, whose eastern Placer County district takes in the Foresthill Divide, said the amendments aren’t groundbreaking but more an attempt by the county to restate existing policy. “This doesn’t substantially change anything and there are no land-use changes,” Montgomery said. Montgomery has organized a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Foresthill Memorial Hall, 24601 Harrison Ave, for divide residents to ask questions about the settlement. Members of FROG and Friends of the North Fork have been invited to answer questions alongside county planning, emergency services and county counsel staff, she said. “We want to make sure we get out to the public what it is and what it isn’t,” Montgomery said. Both Montgomery and Wicks said the settlement in no way targeted Forest Ranch. Supervisors eventually left any specific direction on Forest Ranch for future discussion within the normal county planning process outside the community plan. “I’m assuming they’re fine with it,” Montgomery said. Wicks said Forest Ranch Partners representatives were at the table during talks and took part in the process leading to the settlement. Highlights of the settlement include: - Provisions for initiation of a community plan review starting in 2028 or if the Foresthill Divide population exceeds 16,500 or 6,600 dwelling units, whichever comes first. The population now stands at about 5,700. - Requirements for new residential development of more than 10 units in high-risk fire areas to fund and maintain shaded fuel breaks to prevent fires. - A stipulation that new development will be required to demonstrate the availability of a long-term, reliable water supply before the county grants any approvals. - Plans for development of new design guidelines by the county for ridgeline development to minimize visual impacts, including setbacks and construction requirements below tree canopy height and limits on grading.