Ravine project riles residents

Locals worry more cars could create ‘blood alley’ on Auburn road
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Residents expressed deep concerns Tuesday night over the proposed 725-home Baltimore Ravine project. Locals gave their views about traffic, displacement of wildlife and disruption of Native American historical sites at an Auburn Planning Commission public hearing about the project’s draft environmental impact report. The entire Baltimore Ravine project is planned to include 725 homes, 90,000 square feet of commercial space and 143 acres of open space. Plan area 1 is currently proposed for development. This area calls for 270 housing units and 54.5 acres of open space. There is no current timeframe of when plan area 2 would come up for development. 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. The public hearing was one step in the approval process for development in plan area 1, property owned by developer Stephen Des Jardins of Diamond Creek Partners Ltd. The project still has to go through several more steps, including hearings on the merit of the project itself, and gain City Council approval before development could begin. No decisions were made at the meeting. It was used as a way to gather public comment, and planning commissioners were not allowed to respond to speakers. New Auburn residents John and Barb Murphy said before the meeting they attended the public hearing to get a better sense of how the project might affect their home on Oak View Terrace. Ceci Dalton and her son, Alex Levin, 16, who live near Herdal Drive, said they attended because of concerns about the traffic the development would add to the area. “It’ll create too much traffic on Herdal,” Dalton said pre-hearing. Plan area 1 currently calls for 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. Dalton said she had read the impact report prior to the meeting. “It looks like a pretty thorough report,” she said. “I don’t agree with its conclusions, but it looks pretty thorough.” Cathy Allen, who lives off Herdal Drive, said she doesn’t think the impact report properly measured the traffic flow on Auburn-Folsom Road, because she only noticed traffic strips placed on the road the Friday before spring break when schools were not in session. Allen said she runs in the area and has almost been hit before and has concerns the chance of that would go up with the increase of traffic. Other access points should be considered rather than Herdal Drive, Allen said, mentioning several other streets that could provide better entry. “There are other alternatives to be able to access Baltimore Ravine other than Herdal,” Allen said. April Moore, a Colfax resident who was born on the Auburn Rancheria, said she doesn’t think the report’s research of the area was thorough enough in regards to historical Native American lands and artifacts, because of how difficult it is to traverse the area safely. “That area is a prehistoric area,” Moore said. “You do not cross, crawl or climb anything that is hazardous to your health … but I have it on good authority that that area does have rock mortars in it.” Ralph Gibson, who spoke on behalf of Placer County Museums Division, said the planned bridge over Bloomer Cut would greatly diminish the integrity of the historical landmark, a fact not adequately represented in the impact report. Michael Otten, president of the Placer County Historical Society, said he thinks while the report covers certain topics very thoroughly, its history aspect is severely lacking. “I think it was rather shallow,” Otten said. “I think from a history standpoint it was like doing a thesis off the Internet. It looks like they didn’t do much homework in terms of the history of that area. We had no formal contact from anyone.” Kathleen Harris, who lives in the Grand Oaks subdivision in Auburn, said she is worried about the possible increase of traffic on Indian Hill Road, which could make the road more dangerous. Harris said the new housing units could also lead to more foreclosures in Auburn. “In our neighborhood, it’s 88 homes and we have had 14 homes foreclosed and are vacant,” Harris said. “I fear, just like businesses in Auburn, we will have a lot of foreclosed, vacant property.” Auburn resident Elinor Petuskey said she had the same concerns about Indian Hill Road traffic. “You are creating a blood alley if there is not something done about Indian Hill Road,” Petuskey said. Des Jardins said he is thankful to the residents who have attended previous meetings and taken tours of the property. “I just think it’s great that we are now two years into this, and with two years of hearings, that people are out participating,” Des Jardins said. Residents have until 5 p.m. July 23 to submit written public comments about the Baltimore Ravine specific plan draft environmental impact report. Reach Bridget Jones at ---------------------------------------------------- Want to sound off on the Baltimore Ravine environmental impact report? Send your comments to: Adrienne Graham, Auburn Community Development Department, 1225 Lincoln Way, Room 3, Auburn, CA 95603. Deadline for comments is 5 p.m. July 23.