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Mountain Springs Asks For Community Input

Since first introduced in 1997, the proposed Mountain Springs project has been the focus of protest and standing room only public meetings.

A local special interest group called Voter´s Choice was originally formed that year to oppose the first Mountain Springs Development. That plan proposed building more than 2,000 homes near the Mountain Springs Golf Club off Lime Kiln Road south of Sonora.

Since then, the actual development plan has seen several design changes. In May of 2001, the plan was scaled back to 1,750 homes, but after the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors got through with it, they had knocked another 250 homes off the plan.

About 100 people gathered for Thursday night´s membership meeting at the Sonora Elks Lodge to hear what Mountain Springs project manager Ron Kopf had to say. He talked about the latest on the housing plan.

“I´m presenting a look at where we are in the whole planning process with Mountain Springs,” Kopf said. “We´ve looked at it for the last couple years on where we want to go, and a lot of that is going to take input from the community.”

Kopf says the key to a successful project is a buy-in from the community. “It´s not real fun to develop a community that everybody doesn´t like,” he admited.

“On one end, if you are a low density community you can provide certain functions in the community,” he said. “If you are high density, you can provide other functions.”

The developer said part of the planning is to find a balance that is accepted by the public.

Kopf says they have not yet determined an eventual number of houses for the latest revise of the project. “What we have done is really work on a lot of the traffic issues, how we address some of the water and sewer issues and other global issues that were really big concerns to the community.”

Kopf said they have looked at land uses within the community and depending on the density of the project, will then determine the commercial component of the project.

“That´s part of the the planning process we hope to go over with everybody,” he said.

Among discussion items during Thursday´s meeting were items on the site plan, including parks, trails and where housing could go within the area. He did not give any indication to the number of planned homes.

He said arriving at the final number of lots or homes in Mountain Springs will be “an evolution.”

“Obviously, we´re looked at a lot of different concepts and what the different impact of those are, but part of that is going to come through the input process.”

One other item being looked at is the affordability component. “How does affordable housing want to work, and what component of that will play in this master plan?” he asked.

Still the project has been under tight scrutiny. By March of last year, Voter´s Choice had gathered enough signatures to put Mountain Springs on the ballot. Rather than put it to the voters, Mountain Springs backers pulled the approved plan and went back to the drawing board.

Kopf wouldn´t say if he had expected such strong reactions to the Mountain Springs development when first introduced. “This community, obviously, they care about the quality of life and everyone feels very passionately about it,” he said. “That´s great. That´s the reason for living in this community.”

He admits his top challenge is to find out how Mountain Springs fits within the overall framework of the local community so “we enhance the community and the quality of life.”