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More Development Proposed for Copperopolis

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By Vanessa Turner

A proposal by the developer of Saddle Creek to build 2,110 more homes would make the total population for the Copperopolis area eventually swell from 2,500 to 33,360.

That population figure includes current and planned development.

Dave Haley, vice president of Castle and Cooke Calaveras, has submitted plans to the Calaveras County Planning Department and Calaveras County Water District for a new 3,778-acre development, formerly known as the Brunker Ranch, between Saddle Creek and Lake Tulloch.

Neighboring housing developments include Oak Canyon Ranch, a 2,275 home, 704 townhouse and commercial development, Copper Mill Square, a retail shopping center with shops, restaurants and lofts, and Tuscany Hills, a proposed 335-home development.

Housing on the Brunker Ranch site would range from smaller bungalows and villas to custom homes and 40-acre ranches. One of two marinas would feature a 168-room hotel/lake club. There may be some retail or commercial too, which would likely come in the form of a small convenience store, Haley said. Open space would make up 74 percent of the acreage.

House prices depend on the market, but in today´s dollars, Haley said the lots would go between $150,000 and $500,000.

“Ranches would be more than that,” he said. “Homes would be $600,000 to $1.5 to $2 million. Villas will be a little less.”

Part of the proposal is to lower the density of homes at the existing Saddle Creek development from 1,650 to 1,150 and transfer those units to this new development, Haley said.

Saddle Creek, a gated golf course community, began development in 1994. So far, 415 homes have been built in Saddle Creek and only nine lots are left to sell. The rest are planned for or are under construction.

Another 1,464 acres behind the proposed development have been set aside for a potential 188 more homes.

“We´ll see how this goes before that,” Haley said.

In planning this new development, Haley developed an economic model to determine if the growth was needed and if the area could accommodate it.

Some of the reasons that make Copperopolis a good candidate for growth are that it is out of the San Joaquin Valley farm land, away from congestion, and in a secluded valley, he said.

“We´re trying to look at Copper and plan it out with a good plan that works for every body,” Haley said.

The economic study also compiled current, infill, and planned construction, which provided an overall figure for Copperopolis´ population. If all were built, Copperopolis could boast a population of 33,660, which is more than Calaveras County´s total population in 1990 (31,998).

According to figures released by the state Department of Finance earlier this month, the county´s current population is 44,325.

Over the next 18 months, Haley´s consultants will be developing the project´s environmental impact report, specific plan, development agreement and zoning documents. In late 2006, Haley hopes to begin construction.

Castle and Cooke will be doing 30 to 40 percent of the building with its own crews, Haley said, with the remaining homes being built by the 11 local builders who have built Saddle Creek.

Haley is asking CCWD for a facilities agreement to provide water and sewer to the project.

CCWD has said it needs to secure more water rights for planned developments that came before this one, such as Oak Canyon Ranch. Construction on that project is yet to begin.

Haley doesn´t believe the water will be a problem.

“It´s our opinion they have the right to increase their water rights,” he said.

But the state water board doesn´t hand out water rights “willy nilly.” It has to be tied to actual development, Haley added.

Haley also said he´s not worried about a recent $3 million settlement Oak Canyon Ranch´s developer has to pay Tuolumne County for the project´s impact to O´Byrnes Ferry Road.

Tuolumne sued Calaveras for approving Oak Canyon Ranch without mitigation measures for the road.

There will be no impact, Haley said of his project on O´Byrnes Ferry Road. Residents in this area of Copperopolis tend to drive down Highway 4 to Modesto, Manteca and Stockton, which are 45 minutes away, he said. It´s five minutes longer than Sonora, he added.

He said Oak Canyon Ranch and Tuscany Hills, developments with similar impacts to the road, did it all wrong.

Oak Canyon and Tuscany are in the same area of Copperopolis that Haley´s development would be. They didn´t identify the correct traffic patterns, Haley said. For residents in this area to access O´Byrnes Ferry Road, they would need to drive down Little John Road and across Copper Cove Drive.

Further drawing traffic away from O´Byrnes Ferry is another Castle and Cooke development, Copper Mill Square at Highway 4 and Little John Road.

It would take traffic off O´Byrnes Ferry and Highway 4, Haley said.

The project´s environmental impact report is nearing completion and could be in front of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in late March. By late summer Haley hopes to begin groundwork and build structures in January 2006. Castle and Cook will be doing all the development. A grand opening is tentatively set for April 2007.

Haley said he´s received interest for about 100,000 square feet of the retail space, but would not disclose any particular tenants other than Ed Rich of the Calaveras Olive Oil Company, and an 18-room inn. He did say other tenants could include restaurants, boutiques, dress shops and a jewelry store. Haley would also like to get a specialty market in one of the spaces.

Castle and Cook owns another 245 acres behind Copper Mill Square, which Haley said would be developed as senior housing or affordable housing, or possibly an inn and spa.

Contact Vanessa Turner

Reprinted with permission from the Calaveras Enterprise