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Placer supes put off decision on 150-unit Penryn apartment project

Orchards at Penryn appeal hearing continued over concerns by some supervisors
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Media Life columnist
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AUBURN CA - A 150-unit apartment project in Penryn will remain in limbo for at least another three weeks after the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to continue discussion to a future meeting.

The 5-0 decision came after three supervisors expressed reservations about different facets of the Orchards at Penryn project.

Supervisor Jim Holmes was the first to ask for a delay, citing a delay to look into what he said are unresolved questions on zoning, traffic and drainage.

Supervisor Robert Weygandt, who represents the Lincoln area, said a delay was merited because the project didn’t appear to meet community plan standards for buffering the site from nearby, 2.3-acre residential parcels. He said he was concerned about any visual compatibility in the neighborhood because of Orchards two-story apartment units backed up to the property line and a “significant” fence.

Supervisors Kirk Uhler of Granite Bay and Jack Duran of Roseville said they felt the project met county zoning and community plan standards.

In doing so, they faced a crowd that had more than 60 Penryn-area residents over two days of hearings argue against the project. One Penryn resident spoke in favor.

Uhler said the San Diego holding company developing the property bought an “entitled right” to develop the project. Zoning was approved on the site 31 years ago, he said.

“(Turning the project down) would do a disservice to property rights in Placer County,” Uhler said.

Duran addressed a common theme of speakers during the hearing, who expressed concerns that the apartment building was too big for Penryn and not compatible with a rural residential area.

“If I thought for a second this project would destroy your community, I wouldn’t support it,” Duran said.

Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery tipped the balance by saying she would support a continuation to answer concerns expressed by Holmes and Weygandt.

Montgomery, whose 5th District takes in Auburn, said more answers were needed on traffic-flow questions and voiced support for an examination into reconfiguring or even down-sizing the project to meet Weygandt’s concerns.

“I would really like a better analysis of traffic,” Montgomery said. “The numbers we have now are unrealistic and we need to revisit that.”

Uhler and Duran voted with the other supervisors to move the vote for or against an appeal back at least three weeks. The next hearing date was left open-ended on the recommendation of Michael Johnson, Community Development Resource Agency director. Johnson said his staff would need an indefinite amount of time to sift through the information from the hearing and come back with responses to supervisor concerns.

The appeal of the county’s Planning Commission approval last June of the project was filed by the town of Loomis and a group of nearby residents calling themselves Stop 150 Penryn Apartment.

The 15-acre project site sits near Interstate 80 off Penryn Road. More than 40 people devoted more than three hours of testimony time during Tuesday’s hearing to voice their opposition. That followed an initial hearing Oct. 12 that was continued.