Placer Planning Commission OK’s North Auburn Timberline development

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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An 858-unit residential development proposal in North Auburn that focuses on seniors spurred concerns Thursday from nearby residents but won key approvals from the Placer County Planning Commission. The commission voted 6-0 to approve use permits on the project but opponents to all or part of the 119-acre Timberline Continuing Care Retirement Community and commercial-office development will get their say before the Placer County Board of Supervisors when a rezoning application for the property comes up at a future meeting. “There are more bites,” Planning Commissioner Gerry Brentnall said, before making the motion to approve use permits, subdivisions and variances. Supervisors will have the final say on zoning and community plan amendments, as well as an environmental review for the project. And if opponents are still dissatisfied, they can challenge the decision in court. Outside, one nearby resident expressed dissatisfaction with both the vote and the amount of time it took for planning commissioners to come to a decision after 2½ hours of testimony at a public hearing. Todd Warner, whose subdivision borders the wooded Timberline property, had told the commission that he studied the zoning when he moved to North Auburn but never “in my wildest dreams” thought that it would mean three-story apartment buildings being located 400 feet from his property. He left the meeting unhappy with the decision. “They spent 45 minutes discussing a one-year use permit for a kayak vendor in Lake Tahoe and with a unanimous vote with minimal discussion, they voted on an 858-unit development that will take 15 years to build, and have three-story buildings in the middle of single-family residential neighborhoods,” Warner said. While there was little opposition to the Timberline concept of a gated community off Richardson Drive and Bell Road built primarily for retirees, the majority of speakers were neighbors opposed to plans for grading all of the project at once, losing their views because of three-story buildings and structures located too close to their lot lines. Auburn resident Tom Jones was one speaker in favor of the project as proposed. Jones said it would be good for the area’s quality of life to provide more housing that could help people live out their lives in Placer County. “Timberline is going to allow families to stay united and allow people to retain their community ties,” Jones said. John Margowski, representing developer Western Care Construction of Rocklin, said that as well as 780 of the development’s 858 residential units devoted to seniors, the project will provide 600 jobs at buildout. The three-story buildings are being sited as far away from nearby subdivisions as possible, Margowski said. As well as the retirement community, plans call for an office and commercial complex with 78 residential lofts that have no age restrictions on top floors. A third component of the project involves a cooperative agreement to construct a 4,500-foot-long trail and preserve wetlands on a 24-acre Auburn Recreation District parcel adjacent to the Timberline site. While not date for the next Timberline hearing has been set, a hearing usually takes place within 60 days of a Planning Commission decision.