Supes OK North Auburn’s 858-unit Timberline development

Appeal denied but court challenge now possible
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County supervisors gave their support Tuesday to an 858-unit residential development in North Auburn that neighbors protested will be too big in scope for the area. Initially OK’d by the Placer County Planning Commission in May, approvals for the 119-acre Timberline Continuing Care Retirement Community and commercial office development were appealed to the Board of Supervisors by nearby residents Dale Smith and Jon Forslund. Smith, a community activist whose Sunshine Way home sits near the vacant Timberline site off Bell Road, urged supervisors to hold off on approvals and look further into questions raised about the amount of water the development would have for firefighting and concerns about the size of buildings. Smith, who has battled the county in the past on development in the North Auburn area, said the lack of proper environmental study on impacts from the project would now likely mean a court challenge. But other speakers said they thought the project would be a good fit on the parcel, which sits across Richardson Drive from the county’s Government Center. North Auburn resident Eric Hill said the Timberline property is near Bell Road and Highway 49 in an area already developed with commercial facilities. As well as 780 of the 858 units in the development devoted to seniors, plans also call for an office and commercial complex with 78 residential lofts that have no age restriction on top floors. “It’s going to get developed one way or another,” Hill said. “There are many developments that would be much less desirable than this.” John Margowski, representing developer Western Care Construction of Rocklin, said that the project will help to fill the housing needs of aging Baby Boomers, with California’s population of seniors expected to double to 9 million by 2030. When built out, it will also create a total of 600 quality jobs, he said. One of the concerns for neighbors was the size of some of the buildings. Plans are for several three-story structures. “I have a beautiful view of the Sierra but when two- and three-story buildings come in, we’re going to lose it,” said Sunset Terrace homeowner Robert Simon. Margowski said that the developer had responded to concerns about the height of buildings expressed at a 2008 hearing by reducing four of the 11 three-story structures to two stories. Supervisors voted 5-0 to deny the appeal and approve permits for the project. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery and Supervisor Kirk Uhler suggested that fears of mass grading on the project be addressed by doing the work in stages. Before the vote, Smith had said there were concerns that once trees on the property were cut down and the site graded, work would stop. “If the proponent isn’t able to continue, we’re going to be stuck with destroyed trees and big holes,” Smith said.