El Dorado County Supervisors took unanimous action related to Supervisorial District 2, represented by Supervisor Ray Nutting. Nutting, however, was absent from the regular Tuesday board meeting, so the vote was 4-0 to stop the process that would have hired an environmental consultant. The consultant would have been contracted to prepare an Environmental Impact Report based on the proposed San Stino housing development in Shingle Springs.
Tuesday afternoon Nutting’s Assistant Kitty Miller explained that the supervisor and his wife were away on a vacation they had planned and paid for long before the San Stino issue got on this week’s agenda.
Despite the fact that the agenda item addressed only a proposed contract for EIR work, numerous area residents spoke to the board expressing varying degrees of concern and outrage at the size and scope of the proposed 645 acre, 1,041-unit housing project. Bordered by French Creek Road and Mother Lode Drive in Shingle Springs, the project’s “developer has been very interested since before 2010,” according to Joel Korotkin who represents the project.
Professional staff including County Counsel Ed Knapp and Planning Division Director Roger Trout redirected the discussion several times to the agenda item as written and explained that the board was only required to deal with the proposed contract to hire an EIR consultant.
Board Chairman Ron Briggs asked early in the hearing if the county “is obligated to do this.”
In response Knapp clarified that, “Yes. The developer has the right to submit an application and get an EIR done.” And he noted that the cost, $318,335, would be borne solely by the developer.
“The developer pays, but the county is the supervisor of the study,” Knapp said.
Briggs went on to relate an earlier discussion on the project. “I cautioned the developer that this is dense housing on roads that are ‘interesting.’ It seems a little bit too much, but that’s not to say I’m for or against it.”
Earlier, Trout had tried to explain, “This is not a for or against vote (on the project) but rather approval of a contract for the EIR … which is needed due to the application for development.”
Much of the opposition focused on the adequacy of the “interesting” roads within the area to handle “as many as 2,200 or 3,300 additional vehicles on the roads, especially in the event of a fire,” one resident warned.
Steve Schultz called attention to potential hazards from asbestos accompanying the exposure of serpentine rock from grading and earth moving on a project that large.
District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco also sought to put the discussion in perspective, “We’re determining the need for an EIR and considering the selection of a contractor. We’re not approving the project,” he said.
Despite the focus of the supervisors, however, area residents continued to come to the podium in the board chambers and lambaste the project in general and occasionally the board in particular. Several introduced the theme that “the developer wouldn’t put up a quarter of a million dollars unless he had some expectation that the project would be approved.”
Lisa Martin described the project as “the beginning of a cancer” on the rural environment that attracted her family to Shingle Springs. Another local resident said, “this project is a fool’s errand, utterly stupid.”
Doug Jarman advised that the developer should “follow the rules, like everyone else, and Shingle Springs can’t handle 1,000 additional homes.” He concluded his remarks also suggesting that a developer doesn’t spend a quarter million without some expectation of favorable treatment.
A number of speakers prefaced their testimony noting that they should not be considered “no growth” advocates but that the current lack of adequate infrastructure including water, roads, schools and Internet access should be an obvious limitation to large-scale development.
Sue Taylor, representing the Save Our County group, called the issue before the supervisors a “fast-forward to super projects” and noted opposition to any “streamlining of the CEQA process.”
Generally referring to the majority of the audience, Taylor continued, “NIMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard) are people who care about their community, so I’m proud to be a NIMBY.” And she urged the board to “uphold the general plan.”
County Counsel Knapp again pointed out that “part of the the proposed contract agreement for EIR work contains clear language that there is no expectation of approval (of the project).”
“Can we just say no?” Briggs asked. “Yes,” Knapp answered.
District 3 Supervisor Brian Veerkamp at that point acknowledged that “the community is concerned and the community is talking, so I will move for denial of this. We’ve got to get this straightened out and decide what we want to be when we grow up (as a county).”
Later Veerkamp suggested that a vote for the EIR contract would be “sending the wrong message (to developers and to the community).”
In seconding the motion, District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago noted the issues of infrastructure and asbestos and repeated an earlier comment that the contract for an EIR was “putting the cart before the horse.”
Trout responded, once more putting the need and value of the EIR in context. “All the issues you’ve just mentioned are the tools of the EIR,” he said. “The point is that the applicant has the right to ask. Approval of this is not an approval of the project.”
Trout sent an e-mail to the Mountain Democrat later Tuesday explaining that, “The action today provided us direction from the board that our normal process for preparation of an EIR was not approved. (However), we are continuing to process the application for San Stino, and county staff will continue to work with the applicant on options to satisfy CEQA.”
He added that he had just concluded a phone conversation with Joel Korotkin and had further explained “some of our contracting rules for professional services that he was not aware of.”
Nutting called the Mountain Democrat late Tuesday and Wednesday morning. He expressed considerable frustration that the issue came up when he was going to be absent.
“I didn’t know about this (when we made our plans) or I would have directed staff not to put it on while I’m away,” Nutting said. “I told the developers quite some time ago that the project has to have community support and it has to solve problems, not create infrastructure problems. I’m an extension of my community and I’m going to support my community. I would have voted with my colleagues on this if I had been there.”
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.