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District 3 News

Land link to bolster Placer, North Auburn trail experience

Auburn Journal, January 7, 2014

County clears way for trail between Hidden Falls, Harvego Preserve

Placer County has purchased key links to a public trail network that would stretch from Hidden Falls Regional Park to the Bear River.

The purchase price of $297,000 acquires a total of 17.5 acres outright, an open-space conservation easement on 5.4 acres, and a trail easement from another property owner that will provide a direct link between the county’s 1,200-acre Hidden Falls Regional Park and the 1,773-acre Harvego Bear River Preserve. The preserve is owned by the nonprofit Placer Land Trust of Auburn.

Gazing over oak woodland and the slow-moving winter flow of Coon Creek in rural North Auburn, Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes said Monday that while much work still has to be done to open the area to visitors, the purchases in December after several months of negotiations were well worth the time and money.

“These acquisitions represent a major milestone in our efforts to achieve two important goals: preserving oak woodlands, stream corridors and other key open-space areas and building trails so the public can enjoy them.”

Finalization of the purchase of the properties, all located northeast of Hidden Falls, represents the culmination of a decade of efforts by several groups – including the county, the land trust and landowners in the area – to create a potential network of trails expanding from Hidden Falls off Mears Road. The Hidden Falls park acreage open to the public was expanded in May to 1,200 from 220 and mileage from seven to 23.

The distance between the Bear River Preserve and Hidden Falls is 1.5 miles, but Placer Land Trust Executive Director Jeff Darlington said the trail is envisioned to be much longer as it takes a meandering, scenic path through the purchased properties and others owned by the Placer Land Trust.

While the land is not yet open to the public, the land trust provides tours on the second Saturday of each month, lasting about three hours. The trust can be contacted for more information on its next docent-led tour, scheduled for Saturday.

The acquisitions also help conserve an east-west corridor used by wildlife migrating between the valley floor and the Sierra Nevada, and a north-south corridor through oak woodlands.

The land trust is seeking to raise $750,000 in 2014 to move the trail network plan forward. It has already installed fencing along a portion of the proposed trail easement.

“The community has expressed a desire for more recreation lands, where families can hike, run, ride and just enjoy a little wilderness,” Darlington said. “Local community support will be key in making that happen. We need local investment to leverage grant funds to protect these ‘natural playgrounds’ and make them available to the public.”

When completed, the network through Hidden Falls and the Land Trust parcels to the Harvego Preserve is expected to offer 50 miles of public trails.

Funding for the purchase is from the county’s open space trust fund, with a portion paid for through tree mitigation funds.

Myths about Costco site are dispelled

Auburn Journal, December 20, 2013

People around town want to know more about Costco’s proposal to build a 148,000-square-foot store in North Auburn. I am happy to answer their questions, and I welcome their input. Many people are excited about the prospect of having a Costco Wholesale club store in Auburn on Highway 49 at the county-owned site commonly known as the DeWitt Center.

Others, however, are concerned about potential impacts, particularly that the Senior Center and several other tenants would have to move if the Costco store is built. I welcome public discussion of the issue, but am concerned about several misconceptions that I hear or read in print. I appreciate this opportunity to clarify the issues.

First of all, the project is not a done deal. No development will begin unless and until the Board of Supervisors reviews the project and decides whether to lease 16 acres for development of a Costco store. During the project review process, the public will have opportunities to comment at meetings of the Board of Supervisors, the Placer County Planning Commission and the North Auburn Municipal Advisory Council.

Second, any lease will be market-based, not a special deal for the company.

Third, there are no deed restrictions on the property that prohibit Placer County from leasing land at the DeWitt Center to private businesses.

There are 40 years of history that address this question, starting with the original agreement that transferred ownership of the DeWitt Center from the state of California to Placer County in 1971.

It did include a deed restriction that limited use of the property to “public” purposes. In 1978, however, state legislation ratified an agreement between the state and the county that removed the deed restriction in exchange for a transfer to state ownership of almost 18 acres of vacant land on Bell Road east of the Mount Vernon Grange Hall.

The State Department of General Services explained the agreement in a 1979 letter to Placer County, saying, “The arrangement agreed upon was for the state to eliminate deed restrictions and statutory provisions that prohibit the county from using rental profits towards upgrading and redeveloping the DeWitt property and, in return, the county would turn over to the state 17.83 acres of vacant land.” The 17.83-acre property was sold by the state in 1980 and later subdivided for private development.

The agreement with the state was important to Placer County, which had worked with state officials to develop a long-range plan for the DeWitt Center.

Leasing property and using the income to help fund improvements and maintenance was a practical, cost-effective solution that was in the interest of taxpayers. A 1980 newspaper article put the issue in perspective, reporting that the DeWitt Center initially was considered a white elephant because it was a rundown eyesore. The article credited Placer County with working slowly but surely to upgrade the center. A 1983 list of DeWitt tenants included approximately 70 government agencies, nonprofit groups, private businesses and other renters. Among the businesses were a credit union, a manufacturing operation, a meat company, doctors’ offices and a dental lab.

A leasing bulletin put out by the County Facility Services Department in 1994 noted that almost 30 percent of the center’s approximately 750,000 square feet of usable space was leased to private businesses.

In 2001, the Board of Supervisors approved the first major lease of undeveloped land at the DeWitt Center so a Home Depot store could be built there.

As a tenant, Home Depot makes rent payments to the county and pays possessory interest taxes, a type of tax similar to property taxes that is levied when private parties lease, rent or use property owned by public agencies.

In June of this year, Costco submitted a pre-development application to the County Community Development Resource Agency, initiating an environmental review and entitlement process that is anticipated to take 15 to 18 months. Any lease agreement would require Costco to make rent payments and pay possessory interest taxes.
Placer County has notified the Senior Center and other tenants that they may need to move and is meeting with them to discuss how the county can help them. We will continue to keep tenants and the public informed, and welcome everyone’s input.

Many issues remain open for discussion and will be resolved in the months ahead.
To me, three conclusions seem clear: The project is not a done deal, any lease will be market-based, and Placer County clearly has a right to lease DeWitt properties to private businesses.

Jim Holmes is a fifth-generation Auburn area resident and is serving his third term as a Placer County Supervisor.

Take a Look at the Homeless Around Us

Auburn Journal, April 12, 2012

During my time as a Placer County Supervisor I have done my best to connect with those who are less fortunate. For that reason I chose to serve on three Placer County government organizations, the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board, the Community Services Commission, and the First Five Children and Families Commission. I also chose to serve on the boards of two non-governmental agencies, The Gathering Inn and the Salvation Army. Both provide services to our homeless population.

My involvement has also connected me with several other organizations in Placer County that provide such services, among them, The Lazarus Project, a leading nonprofit provider of housing and support services for homeless individuals; Acres of Hope, a church-based organization that provides housing and life skills training for homeless mothers and their children; and St. Vincent de Paul, another church-based organization that provides services to our less fortunate population.

The above organizations serve the homeless in a variety of ways. They provide food and overnight lodging. They provide educational, counseling, and vocational services to homeless individuals and families.

They also provide health services to keep this particular population out of hospital emergency rooms and to contain the spread of infectious disease. Their mission is proactive. They extend a hand to help those who find themselves homeless or on the verge of being homeless and they help those people transition to the next best step.

But the stigma of homelessness is often formed by the sight of the homeless person standing at an intersection with a cardboard sign or sitting on a sidewalk drinking out of a brown paper bag. We often ask ourselves: “Why do they choose that lifestyle?”

To help us understand this question, young local filmmaker and Placer High graduate, Ryan Frew, has produced the documentary, “Life is Mandatory.”

This excellent film on the plight of the homeless only tells part of the story by portraying the chronically homeless who represent 13 percent of the homeless population.

The other 87 percent are made up of women, children and men who are receiving services and moving forward during these tough economic times. All organizations providing for the homeless are overwhelmed by the need that has grown in the past few years.

This documentary will be shown at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 14 at the State Theater in Auburn. Frew and his crew traveled to the areas in Auburn and Sacramento where the homeless hang out. He interviews those who chose to be homeless.

It is obvious that many suffer from various forms of mental illness and it is interesting to hear comments from those who just choose that lifestyle to avoid the hassles of living in a complex society.

Please join me in attending one of the showings. You may recognize some of the characters, as I did, who live on the streets in Auburn.

I am sure that it will help your understanding of the complexities surrounding the issue of homelessness.

Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes represents the Third District, which includes North Auburn, the communities of Ophir, Newcastle, Penryn, the Town of Loomis and the portion of the City of Rocklin from Pacific Street to Sierra College Boulevard.

Consolidation Meant to Streamline

Placer Herald, November 23, 2010

Placer County expects to save more than $500,000 this fiscal year by reorganizing three departments: the Board of Supervisors Office, County Executive Office and Community Development Resource Agency.

The reorganizations are part of an ongoing effort to streamline county operations while making more resources available for high-priority services and projects.

The overriding goal is to preserve important public services despite the budget challenges created by the economic downturn and state budget crisis.

The Board of Supervisors gave final approval to plans for reorganizing the agency in October and is working out final details on a proposal to consolidate the Board of Supervisors Office and County Executive Office into a single department.

All county departments have been tightening their belts for several years, including the three that are being reorganized. CEO’s administrative branch, for example, has not filled five positions vacated over the last couple of years.

Combining the CEO and board office in one department makes sense because they already work together closely and have many overlapping responsibilities.

The board office supports the five elected members of the Board of Supervisors, frequently serving as their liaisons to the public, county departments and other agencies.

The move to consolidate the two offices was prompted partly by the recent retirement of Assistant County Executive Officer Mike Boyle. A member of the CEO management team, he served as the board’s administrative officer the last five years, helping integrate operations of the two departments.

At budget workshops in August, the board expressed interest in maintaining that approach while formalizing it.

Consolidating the two departments will allow the county to classify the new administrative officer as a principal management analyst, rather than as a higher-ranked assistant CEO or department head. The change will result in a savings of more than 30 percent.

Part of that savings will be offset by a move to strengthen the division of the CEO responsible for coordinating development of the county budget and long-range fiscal planning.

Another goal is improving the county’s community outreach to constituent groups and the general public.

The county expects the reorganization to result in a net savings of more than $300,000 for the 2010-11 fiscal year and ongoing savings of approximately $45,000 per year.

The board directed staff last January to return with a plan for reorganizing the Community Development Resource Agency. The reorganization approved by the board in October will result in a net savings of approximately $250,000 this fiscal year.

The county will save money by reclassifying two positions and not filling a third position that was vacant, but funded. Part of the savings will be offset by creating an assistant director position to help manage the agency.

The reorganizations are great examples of how Placer County is working hard to streamline its operations while making additional resources available for high-priority programs and projects. Our proactive approach to dealing with fallout from the economic downturn and state budget crisis is a fundamental reason our county is in better fiscal shape than many other counties and cities in California.

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