Subdivision site may become tree preserve

By: Laura O’Brien, Loomis News Correspondent
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The undeveloped Heritage Park II subdivision along Interstate 80 may be transformed into a tree mitigation bank and nature preserve. Town Council discussed using the 11.7-acre parcel as a tree mitigation bank at their January meeting. At the request of Council, Town Engineer Brian Fragiao presented cost and other estimates for developing the park at the Jan. 24 meeting of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee (PROSC). The Town asked the committee to make a recommendation about development of the land as a passive or active park, as a tree mitigation bank or conservation area, or a combination of those options. “We felt it would be beneficial as a tree mitigation bank as well as having a passive nature preserve,” said PROSC Chair Nancy Beck. Shawna Martinez, a biology professor at Sierra College and PROSC member, introduced the tree mitigation bank idea during the January council meeting. “Heritage Park should be used as an ‘open space’ tree mitigation bank for not only the Priory development but also for future projects within the Town,” she wrote in a letter distributed to Council before its January meeting. “This would allow potential developers to enter into a partnership with the Town for mitigated losses to canopy and a place to plant trees for the future.” Council last took up the Heritage Park item in March last year and decided to wait until this year to revisit it. Mayor Sandra Calvert, a former PROSC member, asked that the park be placed on the January council agenda. The town purchased the Heritage Park II subdivision for $352,710 in December 2009, using reserve funds. An Army Corps of Engineers permit that expired in December 2011 called for a five-acre preserve on the site, 2.5 acres of which constituted a protected pond and other waters. In 2008, plans for the site included a potential subdivision with 29 housing units and a one-acre park. Members of the public that spoke at the January council meeting voiced support for maintaining the entire site as a nature preserve. Councilmember Miguel Ucovich asked for more information on the costs of developing the site before discussing it further. Councilmember Rhonda Morillas called for a public workshop decide what to with the park. Council asked that town staff make a presentation to the PROSC with the estimated cost for developing the site and the estimated number of trees that could be planted as a tree mitigation bank. Staff also analyzed topical features of the site, such as wetlands, that could impede its development. The PROSC recommendation will be brought back to the council for consideration at their Feb. 14 meeting at the Loomis Train Depot. For more information call, 652-1840.