The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, Sept. 23, to uphold the appeal of an Elderwood/Colvin Mountain ownership group that challenged the Tulare County Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny a tract map with 162 lots on a 225-acre parcel. The property is north of the city of Woodlake and outside its development boundaries.
The BOS decision includes conditions that if the development is to proceed, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) must be certified for the project.
On Tuesday, the Supervisors met in closed session to confer with county counsel prior to making their decision. Steve Worthley, an attorney who represents District 4 (Dinuba area), explained that the Board’s decision was based upon a legal mandate that stipulates development in the area is compatible with local zoning.
A vocal contingent of neighbors has been opposed to the Elderwood Heights project throughout the planning process, citing water, septic, traffic, and concerns for the area’s unique culture resources. The family that owns the property, a portion of which is still planted in citrus, has been working on a tract map of the property for the past two decades.
During public hearings conducted earlier this year by the Tulare County Planning Commission, an owner stated that the development plans were compatible with the Foothill Growth Management Plan (1981) that sought to direct some of the County’s projected growth to outlying areas. When planning commissioners asked the agent for the developer, David Roberts of Roberts Engineering, if the owners would be willing to reduce the number of lots in the tract, Roberts replied that would not be financially feasible.
Diana Pearcy, who has testified repeatedly against the project, questioned the zoning in a recent letter published August 29 in the Commonwealth. Pearcy maintains that the Planned Development-Foothill Combined-Special Mobile Home Zone is out of place when the surrounding area is zoned for agriculture.
Kevin Russell of Woodlake stated that Elderwood Heights would put a financial burden on the local school district because at least 10 extra bus trips per day would be needed to service the new development. He also said all those individual systems on 162 lots would be a “septic nightmare.”
It’s not known how long the EIR will take to prepare. When it is finally submitted and made available for public review, the Tulare County Planning Commission will conduct more public hearings on the project and then make a recommendation on whether or not the development should move forward.