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Proposed Placer County Conservation Plan Has Expanded Its Boundaries

January 20, 2010

The proposed Placer County Conservation Plan, a regional strategy that could help fast-growing Placer County preserve more than 50,000 acres of open space and strike a balance between long-term growth and conservation, will now include sections of Supervisorial District 5 following actions by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The conservation plan would provide a comprehensive framework for protecting vernal pools, endangered wildlife, their habitats, and other natural resources. The county’s goal is to develop a plan that will comply with the federal and state Endangered Species Acts, as well as the federal Clean Water Act’s rules for preserving wetlands.

Tuesday’s decision will allow county staff and consultants to complete the preparation of a conservation strategy. Once it is complete the conservation strategy document will be discussed with the other partner agencies, then submitted to the state and federal wildlife agencies for review.

If ultimately approved, the plan will apply to land in West Placer that is unincorporated or in the buildout area of the Lincoln General Plan. Placer County’s partners on the conservation plan are the city of Lincoln, Placer County Water Agency and Placer County Transportation Planning Agency.

An ad hoc committee with two representatives from the Board of Supervisors and two from the Lincoln City Council was created in 2007 to negotiate many of the issues raised during development of the conservation plan. Supervisors Robert M. Weygandt and Kirk Uhler represent the county board on the committee.

About two years ago, District 5 was removed from the plan at the request of then-Supervisor Bruce Kranz. After being approached by residents who desired to have their District 5 land included in the boundaries of the PCCP, current 5th District Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery approached the Board about putting the western part of the district back into the plan. The full board agreed with her request for staff to study the issue. In addition to Tuesday’s board hearing, a public meeting was held for Fifth District landowners during the Dec. 8 meeting of the North Auburn Municipal Advisory Council, where property owners voiced support for the proposed changes to the map.

While District 5 stretches from North Auburn to North Lake Tahoe, the portions proposed for inclusion in the plan are rural residential parcels in and around the Hidden Falls Regional Park including properties already set aside for conservation.

“These District 5 lands provide a tremendous addition to our conservation strategy and makes a lot of sense in terms of watershed management,” noted Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt. “While we hope to submit this plan to the regulatory agencies soon, there will still be plenty of time for public involvement, and I encourage residents to stay involved.”

On Nov. 3, Board members also approved a map that will serve as the foundation for the PCCP’s conservation strategy.

The map identifies:

  • Areas that are expected to accommodate growth between now and 2060;
  • Lands that are already protected from development;
  • A reserve area containing properties potentially suitable for protection; and
  • Areas within incorporated communities not participating in the plan: Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis and Auburn.

Under the proposal, property owners in the reserve area would retain their current property rights, as well as land use and zoning designations. They would have the option of selling or donating land or conservation easements under the PCCP, but would not be required to do so. Property owners in the reserve area would still be able to develop their property consistent with underlying zoning and land use designations.

Likewise, property owners in the “future development area” would retain their existing rights; current land uses and zoning would not change.

However if a PCCP is adopted, landowners in either zone will benefit from streamlined permitting from the county and city of Lincoln rather than from one or several state or federal agencies.

Currently, property owners must get permits from as many as six federal and state regulatory agencies if proposed land-use changes could impact endangered species, wetlands and streams.

Under the PCCP, development still would be subject to federal, state and local regulatory requirements, but a streamlined, one-stop permitting process would be created that would reduce costs and the uncertainty facing developers.

“I am convinced the conservation plan will enhance opportunities for property owners in the Auburn area, not take anything away,” declared Board Chairman Kirk Uhler, who represents District 4.

Most of the costs incurred implementing the PCCP would be borne by developers, not taxpayers. On the other hand, developers will continue to incur costs complying with federal and state environmental regulations whether the PCCP is in place or not.

The plan would aid the PCTPA in its planning for Placer Parkway, a road that will link Highway 65 with Highways 99 and 70 in Sutter County, and would assist the PCWA with plans for diverting Sacramento River water to help serve West Placer’s needs.

Director Michael J. Johnson of the county’s Community Development Resource Agency says in a report to the board that most of the 5th District property that will be added back into the PCCP is in the Bear River and Coon Creek watersheds.

Johnson said the 5th District properties will be a valuable addition to the PCCP’s reserve system, but generally will face a limited regulatory burden.

“Growth within the identified area is mostly in the form of rural residential development and impacts on endangered species and important habitat types are expected to be minimal,” he says in his report to the board.

“In terms of conservation, it turns out that this westernmost portion of District 5 makes a significant contribution to the blue oak woodland conservation needs of the PCCP.”

Johnson also reports that some large landowners in the 5th District already have expressed interest in having their properties considered as part of the reserve area under the PCCP.

After state and federal regulatory agencies comment on the plan, Placer County will prepare an environmental analysis and finance plan for public review.