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Penryn says 'No' to 150 apartments

Meeting draws more than 100
By: Laura O’Brien Loomis News Correspondent
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More than 100 Penryn residents rallied to protect their rural lifestyle from high-density development last week. Vocal community members attended the Penryn Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) meeting on Jan. 24 to comment on the Orchards at Penryn, a 150-unit apartment complex proposed for 15 acres that border Penryn and Taylor roads. At the meeting, the 5-member MAC unanimously voted against the project in response to the public’s questioning of the benefits to the community and potential traffic impacts. The Placer County Planning Commission will decide the merits of the project at their meeting scheduled for Feb. 23 meeting. All the key players in the application process for the proposed development were present at the MAC meeting, including the project developers and architects as well as county planners. Several of the 26 individuals who spoke during the public comment period decried allowing apartment homes into their country-style community. “When we moved up here to Penryn it was for rural living,” said Michelle Johnston, who relocated from Southern California. “We escaped the apartments. We escaped the condos. We don’t need this here. Penryn is a special place. Please preserve this community. Allow us to continue to live as we’re living. This is California gold.” Gordon Robbins said he wasn’t against new developments, but against high-density ones. “We are for appropriate development and this is not appropriate,” Robbins said. “That’s not what Penryn is.” Architect Kirk McKinley of McKinley Associates Inc. in San Diego said the proposed complex is comprised of three to six units per building. Floor plans range from 1,150 to 1,400 square feet. There will be 375 parking spots, or 2.5 spots per unit. “This is a very upscale project for a particular client,” McKinley said. He said the project is designed to dodge topical features on the site including rock outcroppings, streams, and areas contaminated with residual chemicals such as DDT and lead arsenate resulting from the prior operation of an orchard. An open canal and sewer easement bisects the planned development. The canal flows to Secret Ravine and into the Sacramento River. County planner E.J. Ivaldi said the proposed project density of 10 dwelling units per acre requires no amendments to the Placer County General Plan and does not require rezoning. Individuals who submitted comments to the draft EIR and members of the public at the meeting questioned why a lower density project was not more seriously considered. When the development first was proposed in 2007, then planning director Michael Johnson wrote in a letter to the developer, “If no community benefits are proposed to justify a higher density, the maximum density staff can support is a density of four units per acre.” In response to the question of the project’s benefit to the community, Mike Mahoney of Penryn Development LLC of San Diego, said the developer has agreed to remove soil contaminants from seven acres of the project site, a necessary mitigation for constructing residential units there. “We are proposing to clean that up at no cost to taxpayers,” Mahoney said. “Right now it’s toxic.” He also said the developer is contributing more than $5 million in required fees toward health and safety services such as fire and sheriff’s. MAC members each voiced their feelings about the project before voting on it. “It seemed like our recommendation from past meetings sort of didn’t go anywhere,” MAC member Gayle Russell said. MAC Chair Bob Brodovsky and MAC member Judy Bennett said they were concerned with the added strain on traffic from the residents of the new development. They also called into question the safety of students traveling to Del Oro High School. If the project is approved, the final EIR, which was issued Jan. 17, states the developer must widen Penryn Road to provide two south-bound lanes, a bike lane, curb, gutter and sidewalk, as well as one-half of a center two-way left turn lane. Earlier in the meeting Stephanie Holloway, with county transportation, addressed comments by meeting attendees that the onramp to Interstate 80 could not accommodate more traffic. She said the traffic study conducted for the project’s EIR did not indicate a need to widen it. If the planning commission approves the project, any appeal would be heard by the board of supervisors, of which third district supervisor Jim Holmes is a member. Holmes was present for the duration of the MAC meeting.