Access issue snags Douglas project | nnbw.com

Access issue snags Douglas project

Kurt Hildebrand
khildebrand@recordcourier.com

Concerns about a second access to a 178-home development hung up approval by the Douglas County Commission on Dec. 12.

The project located north of Sunridge Drive is the first housing project to come forward on land sold by the Bureau of Land Management in 2000.

Three Sunridge residents spoke against the project, saying they didn't want to see the homes or traffic it would generate.

After several attempts, a motion to recommend approval of a variance that allowed a single ingress and egress and an emergency access was approved by planning commissioners, 4-3.

“We have no issues building a secondary access at 30 lots. The future projects are not ready yet. We can easily make the commitment to move from 60 to 30.”-Chris Baker,Manhard Consultants

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The property has been master-planned and zoned for higher densities since 2000.

Developer John Serpa purchased the property in 2005 at a public auction for $8.4 million. The 87.2-acre project considered by planning commissioners dealt with most of the 100-acre parcel purchased by Serpa a dozen years earlier.

Chris Baker of Manhard Consulting said developers attempted to obtain easements for a second access to the development from neighboring property owners.

Planning Manager Heather Ferris said the Valley Knolls project is smaller than the 300 homes proposed in 2007.

The project includes 33 acres of open space and trails. A portion of the property that's slated for commercial was not included.

At issue for planning commissioners was the proposal to have a single access to the project. Under county code, a secondary access is required for a project larger than 20 homes.

However, the variance would allow up to 60 homes before an emergency access was required.

Baker offered to put in the access after 30 homes.

"We have no issues building a secondary access at 30 lots," Baker said. "The future projects are not ready yet. We can easily make the commitment to move from 60 to 30."

East Fork Fire Capt. Terry Taylor said the access was widened to allow people to get out of the project in case of an emergency.

"About 70 percent of people will go to where they entered," Taylor said. "I appreciate the concern you're showing. The best way to protect your home from a wildfire is what you landscape with."

He said the width of the entrance will allow for people to get out even if there is a wreck, which is what resulted in the deaths of 19 people in their vehicles in the 1991 Oakland, Calif., firestorm.

The final decision on the project and variance goes to the Douglas County commissioners.

North of Valley Knolls is the 100-acre project proposed by Big George Ventures' Raymond Sidney. That project was approved for 366 patio homes. Sidney, a former Google software engineer, sought a larger project after county commissioners approved two hotel towers as part of the Beverly Hillbillies Casino.