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Loomis resident in trouble for disturbing protected wetlands

Army Corps of Engineer to get involved
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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A Loomis homeowner and developer is in hot water for allegedly grading and clearing protected wetlands owned by the Town of Loomis, said town staff. According to Matt Lopez, town planner, Nicolay Feitser entered gated, town property adjacent to his home in Brace Ranch Estates and graded and cleared vegetation in a protected open space and wetlands area. Feitser was reached at his home and asked why he conducted the grading and clearing. “I had my reasons, but I don’t want to talk about it now. I will wait to see what they do,” Feitser said. Feitser must now attend a town administrative hearing on March 17 and may be required to restore the area and may be subject to fines. Feitser, owner of Feitser Construction, bought six of the eight lots in the Brace Road development and has built homes on five of the lots, including the home he occupies adjacent to the open space and oak preservation area. The Feitser home is separated from the protected area by a six-foot-high wrought iron fence installed by the original developer. Lopez said Feitser took heavy equipment, possibly a Bobcat compact tractor, through the gate and used it to clear the land of brush on the adjacent town property. Lopez said 10 to 15 trees, type unknown, were planted and seed was spread on a portion of the protected area. Lopez said Feitser was given a verbal order to cease and desist on Feb. 24 and the incident is being reported to the Army Corps of Engineers. Lopez said neighbors called the town on Feb. 24 to report illegal burning on the town property and Loomis Fire Protection District was called. Councilman Gary Liss said he was contacted by neighbors and walked the site on Feb 25. He said he saw the cleared area and the charred remains of three burn piles and one active burn pile. Liss said Feitser was “taking it over as if it’s his own property when it’s actually town property. It’s a flaunting of the rules. He’s in the construction business. He knows what he’s doing.” “We care about our preserve areas. They are for animals, water quality, privacy. People should not desecrate them,” Liss said. A summary of the events and violations, produced by Lopez, stated there was “clearing and grading within a federally protected wetland area,” a “clear violation” of the town’s grading, erosion and sediment control ordinance, “prohibited actions within the Open Space and Tree Preservation Area,” and a potential burning violation. Lopez said the violations occurred on Parcel A of Brace Ranch Estates. The development’s final map states “The purpose of the ‘Open Space and Oak Preservation Area’ is to protect and preserve existing native oak woodlands and associated wildlife habitat,” and “no disturbance is permitted.” The map lists “grading or clearing activities” as prohibited. Lopez visited the site and said an area roughly 125 feet by 125 feet was cleared and graded. Photos, taken by Liss, show tracks presumably left by heavy machinery in the cleared area. Ashes on the ground indicate where foliage from cleared brush was burned. John Prettyman, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, said his office has not begun an official investigation yet, but was asked whether punitive or restorative efforts are made by the Corps in these type of cases. “Fines and enforcement are the last resort. Our first priority is working with the developer or individual to remedy any impacts that may have occurred,” Prettyman said. He said the individual may have to pay for mitigation or find an alternative to account for any lost aquatic resources. “If fines or enforcement action are required we work directly with the Department of Justice in those cases,” he said. Jason Adams, who lives on Howard Lane, spoke at the Planning Commission meeting on March 1 and said he was unsure which laws his neighbor violated, but said he “violated a code of ethics” by destroying the vegetation and animal habitat. Leslie Giovannoni also lives on Howard Lane and told the planning commissioners she was “extremely disappointed” with the alleged violations and was also concerned about wildlife. Giovannoni’s father, Randy Howard, lives in the home he grew up in on Howard Lane that backs up to Feitser’s property. “I’ve had deer come over my fence from that preservation area. Clearing the animal habitat disrupts wildlife,” Howard said. --------------------------------------------- HEARING ON ILLEGAL GRADING, WETLANDS DESTRUCTION What: Administrative hearing on illegal clearing, grading and wetlands destruction Who: Town of Loomis When: 9 a.m., Thursday, March 17 Purpose: Hear testimony Where: Town Hall; may be moved to Train Depot, depending on number of attendees Information: 652-1840