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Placer County seeks developer for Auburn's Silver Bend land

Affordable housing, commercial could be part of the mix on parcel prone to past disputes
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The future of the much-debated 6.2-acre Silver Bend site at the Foresthill exit in Auburn is on the table again. The Placer County Board of Supervisors OK’d redevelopment agency plans Tuesday to issue a request for proposals. With no guidelines other than current zoning, that leaves development of the parcel, located behind the Raley’s supermarket, open-ended. Rich Colwell, chief assistant CEO and redevelopment director, told supervisors that the agency would contact more than 300 potential site developers for proposals. The current zoning on the Silver Bend Way property allows up to 10 units an acre of multi-family residential housing. The county purchased the land last year to settle an outstanding loan debt with the property owner. With county support, the property was approved for a 72-unit affordable housing project in 2002. But subsequent court action by local group Residents Against Inconsistent Development stalled the project and led to an agreement to develop the land as rental-market housing. That never occurred and the developer’s out-of-court settlement with RAID prohibited the Affordable Housing Development Corp. from applying for a government-subsidized low-income housing project on the site until at least April 2008. One of RAID’s leaders has been Michelle Ollar Burris, who owns acreage and a home adjacent to the land. She was appointed to the planning commission in 2005 by former Supervisor Bruce Kranz but then relieved of her duties and sued by the county in 2007 over what it alleges was a lot-splitting scheme designed to skirt planning regulations. Ollar Burris contends she did nothing wrong. Colwell said the redevelopment agency has set aside $2 million in funding to help finance affordable housing on the site. But proposals could also envision a commercial project, he said. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who succeeded Kranz, said she was glad the county is moving forward with a request for proposals on the land. “As you know, affordable housing is what I have an interest in,” Montgomery said. “I hope it’s residential rather than commercial.” Leslye Janusz, who has been involved with efforts to develop cooperative housing in Auburn, told the board that at least 11 families are interested in developing property in the area as green co-housing. That development would like take in 35 units with surrounding green, open space, she said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.