Council approves ‘costly’ tree preserve

Ucovich calls it area’s most expensive
By: Laura O’Brien, Loomis News Correspondent
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The Loomis Town Council approved turning a subdivision site into a tree mitigation bank or nature preserve, but one council member thinks it’s too costly. The council voted 3-1, last week in favor of the plan, with Miguel Ucovich casting the dissenting vote, and Rhonda Morrilas absent. Ucovich said the tree mitigation idea is too pricey. He preferred constructing homes, which would provide revenue for the town. “I have a concern about this particular site and the fact that it’s going to be quite costly for the number of trees that we’re going to have. This would be probably the most expensive tree mitigation that I’ve seen in the area,” Ucovich said. The town purchased the Heritage Park II subdivision site in 2009 for $352,710 paid from town reserves, with the intentions of creating a subdivision map the town would approve of. The site is located at the end of Walnut Street, next to the freeway and other subdivisions. At the Feb. 14 meeting, Town Engineer Brian Fragiao presented the potential costs of constructing a tree bank or passive park. Fragiao said developing the entire area as a tree mitigation bank would cost up to $111,000 and would then cost up to $10,000 per year in annual maintenance. The development costs include grading, water fees, irrigation, fencing of the pond, floodplain considerations, and other items. Fragiao said developing the space as a passive nature preserve would cost up to $87,500 in grading, parking and pathways, pond and floodplain considerations. He said maintenance would cost $11,000 per year. Funds available to pay for the park include the passive park/open space fund, park development fund, tree fund, or outside sources such as grants, development mitigation or donations. There is an available balance of $14,000 in maintenance fees from the Heritage Park I subdivision. Ucovich said the Town should develop a tree planting plan. “I’d like to provide as many trees as possible for the Town of Loomis. Trees have a real value,” Ucovich said. Councilmember Walt Scherer favored the tree mitigation idea. “The suggestion that we keep shopping around for a piece of land to plant trees on is not something that I’m interested in,” Scherer said. “We’ve got 100 trees a year that are coming to us and we don’t have any place to plant them.” Quincy McCourt, who served on Councilman Gary Liss’s Green Ribbon Task Force in 2010, spoke in favor of the park during public comment, as did Nancy Beck, Parks Recreation and Open Space Committee chairperson. But Ron Morris, a former Parks committee member and owner of Secret Ravine Winery, was not in favor of either a mitigation bank or nature preserve. He said the park is in the middle of the downtown core. “I think this is just in the wrong place and we should not give up the subdivision that provides the services that we need,” Morris said. Morris said in a letter to council, “With a residential use of the property … the Town will benefit significantly by bolstering the center area with residents, improving revenue generation, (property taxes and sales taxes), and still providing a small, but highly accessible park.” Members of the public will have the opportunity to contribute ideas on a mitigation bank or preserve at a future planning commission workshop, date to be announced. In other business, council gave Content, Creation and Distribution Expo organizer Peter Oakes their go-ahead for planning this year’s event, scheduled for Sep. 28 and 29.