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Residents, developer argue over best road for project entrance

Some call Pacific Street options unfair to long-time family
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Residents sounded off Tuesday on which street they think would be a better main entrance for a proposed large-scale housing development in South Auburn. On Jan. 13 the Auburn City Council referred the issue of main access for the Baltimore Ravine project back to the Planning Commission. The commission is set to compare two alternative entrances off Pacific Street. The Planning Commission did not take any action on recommending approval of one of the entrances Tuesday, but directed staff to study several topics of concern including police and fire department response times, road grading, impact on resources, legalities surrounding taking part of private and recreation district land for the road and more. The commission also asked staff to bring Herdal Drive into the comparison, because it is currently planned to be the main access point. Both Pacific Street access points would affect private property and one would affect Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District land. Several members of the Sipe family, who own the property that would be affected if one of the Pacific Street alternatives were approved, spoke in opposition to access changes. “Not only would you be taking at least one-third of my property, but the most valuable part of it – the hill with a view of the valley and the Marysville Buttes,” Leslie Sipe said. Sipe said the property had been in her family for over 150 years. Kim Dahlin, along with her husband, owns the Baltimore Ravine Plan Area 2 property that is not yet up for development. Dahlin said Tuesday if one of the Pacific Street access points were approved, the City Council would be going against its word to residents. “In support of the Sipes, the City Council at the last meeting said they would not condemn or eminent domain anyone’s property,” Dahlin said. “So, it’s kind of conflicting with what they said at the last meeting.” Stephen Des Jardins, developer for the infrastructure of Plan Area 1, said the alternatives coming off Pacific Street would have a slope of 15 percent in some areas, making them incredibly steep to drive on. Des Jardins also said these access points would cause the project to lose 14 acres of its planned open space. “Now you (will) have bifurcated the open space with this horrible cut that is a scar across this preserve,” Des Jardins said. Des Jardins said legal Herdal Drive access would always exist, because the Auburn City Council decided it would be the entrance to the property decades ago. “Before any homes were out there, this access existed,” Des Jardins said. “Regardless of zoning, regardless of other access points, there is a right to access the project on Herdal Drive. That doesn’t go away.” Leonard Smith, who lives on Norman Lane off Herdal, said he thinks the Herdal entrance would also condemn homes. “Although (the Sipes) don’t want to have their property condemned, we are condemning 39 other families to noise, traffic and danger on Herdal,” Smith said. “I think both properties are being condemned, maybe in a different fashion, but it’s 39 to 1.” City staff is expected to bring its comparison of the possible entrances as well as its recommendation back to the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Feb. 15. The Baltimore Ravine Specific Plan and Study Areas project is planned to include 790 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 timeframe of when Plan Area 2 would come up for development. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com