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Amador County Wicklow Way Project Scoping Session Draws a Crowd

By Jim Reece

About 70 people attended an environmental scoping session on the proposed Wicklow Way Subdivision hosted by the Amador County Planning Commission Tuesday night at the Jackson Civic Center.

Planning Director Susan Grijalva said the scoping session would help Amador County as the lead agency in the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Wicklow project. She said a Notice of Preparation for a session and EIR was sent and requested comments from state licensing and permitting agencies that have jurisdiction over the tentative Wicklow subdivision map, No. 119 and zoning changes.

It is currently zoned as single family residential and would change to high density multiple family residential and also from retail commercial to a planned development district.

NOP response letters were accepted from the agencies until the meeting Wednesday, Grijalva said, while “notices of this public scoping session were sent to almost 300 area landowners and local agencies.”

She said comments had been received from the Native American Heritage Commission, County Administrative Officer Patrick Blacklock, Caltrans, the Amador County Transportation Commission, the Public Works Agency and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Also notified were the Resources Agency, the Department of Conservation, the Office of Historic Preservation, the Department of Water Resources, Region 2 of the Fish and Game Department, the Department of Health Services, the California Highway Patrol, Housing and Community Development and the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Region 5S or the Central Valley Region.

Grijalva said comments received from a scoping session last August, held by the county Technical Advisory Committee, would join comments in preparing the Environmental Impact Report for Wicklow. The TAC last year found information to determine that the EIR was necessary.

The project totals 201 acres and the tentative map shows it would be subdivided into 584 parcels, Grijalva wrote in the NOP. It would have “445 single-family residential lots (ranging in size from 6,000 square feet to over an acre), 49 duplex lots, 84 town home lots, 7.6 acres for apartments, three commercial parcels and one industrial parcel.”

The NOP listed “environmental factors potentially affected by the proposed project,” which included aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, hazards, hazardous material, hydrology, water quality, land use, planning, noise, population, housing, public services, recreation, transportation, traffic, utilities, service systems and “mandatory findings of significance.”

A handful of the dozens in attendance made comments on an environmental checklist Grijalva provided.

Amador County Recreation Agency Director Tracey Towner-Yep said the development would impact already crowded pools and parks within a 5 mile radius of the 700-unit project. She said the recreation page is lacking and “there´s going to be no room for adequate recreation.”

She said the housing project could possibly bring 2,000 people, while three parks within a 5 mile radius had a total of 15 acres between them.

“That´s not enough already and then you´re going to add another 2,000 people to not enough already?” Towner-Yep asked, adding that two public pools in the same radius serve all of Upcountry. “The pools are both at capacity all day, every day they are open.”

Baseball fields are busy too and, looking at the designs, she said she thought, “there´s no way for those kids to get to school without getting in a car and driving.”

Mel Welsh of Pioneer remarked that the Wicklow map had no pedestrian or biking paths.

Jackson City Planner Susan Peters said traffic should be studied along the Highway 88 corridor, at least to Court Street and all of Highway 49´s intersections. She also said pedestrian and biking trails should be incorporated into the project.

She said also that a 1992 court settlement with the Amador Water Agency gave Jackson the “first refusal rights to serve the area with water.”

Former Jackson City Attorney Dennis Crabb, an affected landowner, said “virtually everything needed environmental review” and the Wicklow subdivision must ultimately be consistent with the county general plan.

He lauded the county for the EIR and the NOP saying it was a “better approach than in 2004.”

Crabb also suggested the county analyze at least two other development alternatives.

Susan Bragstad, an Amador City farmer, said she thought the project affected farmland, though the checklist said it would not.

She said it could open the door so that “development will creep on over into adjacent range land.”

Susan Larson, planning manager for Lemke Construction and the Wicklow developers said she would have meetings with public groups about easing the development´s impacts, including talks about fences and aesthetics. She said the group has held such meetings before in other housing developments.

District 2 Planning Commissioner Barry Risgberg urged Larson to “act sooner, rather than later.”

Grijalva said several letters received included various comments. Blacklock urged a fiscal analysis; Caltrans made comments; ACTC pushed for a traffic modeling study so the project would pay its fair share; and PG&E requested the need to discuss service expansions, new transformers and transmission lines and equipment and distribution feeders.

The draft impact report “will be prepared to respond to the issues and concerns raised through this review process and propose reasonable alternatives” and “mitigation measures which would reduce the impacts to a less than significant level,” Grijalva said. When the Draft EIR is completed, a “Notice of Availability” will be distributed and “the 45-day EIR review period will commence.”

Comments on the adequacy of the draft EIR will be responded to in a Final EIR.

“Eventually, the EIR is certified,” she wrote in the NOP, which means it “adequately identifies the project´s potential impacts and either proposes mitigation measures that should be implemented to reduce those impacts to a less than significant level or identifies that the impact cannot be fully mitigated and that adoption of a ‘statement of overriding consideration´ is necessary in the event the project is approved.

“Only at that time can the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors begin to consider a decision on whether or not to approve the project,” Grijalva wrote, “or some alternative of the project which may have fewer impacts.”

Reprinted with permission from Amador Ledger Dispatch