Conservationists, developers agree on Martis Valley plan |

Conservationists, developers agree on Martis Valley plan

David Bunker

TRUCKEE – Developers and conservationists have come to an agreement that resolves the last legal disputes over individual subdivisions in the 25,000-acre Martis Valley.

Conservationists and Martis Valley developer DMB Highlands Group announced an accord Wednesday that will raise $72 million in property transfer fees for land conservation, restoration work and affordable housing in the Martis Valley area over the next 25 years.

Approximately 400 acres that were planned for development will be left as open space or be used for affordable housing, according to the agreement.

The settlement cancels out two lawsuits environmental groups had filed over Martis Valley developments Siller Ranch and Hopkins Ranch.

“This is great for us and it is great for the community,” said DMB Highlands Executive Vice President Eneas Kane.

Another lawsuit pending

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While the agreement resolves the last dispute over active Martis Valley development proposals, the lawsuit filed against the overall Placer County plan for Martis Valley is still pending. But that lawsuit may also be settled soon, officials said.

“I think we are on the other side of the mountain,” said Placer County Supervisor Bruce Kranz. “We are going down the hill. We are not going uphill anymore.”

The pact settles lawsuits over DMB Highlands Group’s projects Hopkins Ranch and Siller Ranch. Under the agreement, the Hopkins Ranch property – 280 acres on either side of Schaffer Mill road on the north side of the valley – will be donated for open space and affordable housing.

Siller Ranch, a 2,177-acre project that sits near the base of Northstar’s Lookout Mountain, has been modified to reduce development on the south side of Martis Creek.

“That was the most important area for us to preserve,” said Stefanie Olivieri, of Truckee-based Mountain Area Preservation Foundation. “It is very beautiful and remains very untouched.”

A nine-hole course was eliminated from the Siller Ranch project, and 76 home sites were dropped from the plans during negotiations.

“The elimination of one and a half golf courses was a very big deal for us,” Olivieri said, referring to the nine-hole Siller Ranch course and the 18-hole Hopkins Ranch course that have been dropped.

Siller Ranch will now contain 653 housing units and an 18-hole golf course.

The Siller Ranch transfer fee agreement, unlike previous pacts reached between developers and conservationists, will raise significant money – an estimated $18 million over 25 years – for affordable housing.

“The agreement shows that housing interests and conservation interests can work together for a better community,” said Olivieri. “We think that is very unusual.”

The Martis Valley, for the last two years a battleground over development, has now become the breeding ground for a series of innovative partnerships between conservationists and developers to protect habitat and forests and build affordable housing for the local community.

Deals made last year

Conservationists struck agreements with Northstar-at-Tahoe and the Eaglewood subdivision, now called Timilick, last year. The combined fees of the three agreements will allow conservationists to fund their goal of preserving important habitat in the Martis Valley, said Olivieri.

“The transfer fees that will be generated give us real hope that we will achieve our strategy of reducing by half the total Martis Valley housing units that were in play,” she said.