Outcry prompts Environmental Impact Report for proposed Felton bike park

scsfeltonmeadow

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel December 2015

FELTON >> At first on track to speed through environmental review, the velocity bike park and recreation center proposed for a 15-acre Felton meadow is now being reexamined following pushback over concerns of water usage and traffic.

A draft environmental impact report for the project adjacent to Felton Fair Shopping Center is expected to be released for public comment in April, according to county planner Todd Sexauer.

In the meantime, tensions continue between environmentalists and developer Mount Hermon, a nonprofit Christian association that owns several conference and retreat centers in the area.

“It’s just too much,” said Nancy Macy, chair of the Valley Women’s Club Environmental Committee. “It really is going to change the entire feeling of entering into the San Lorenzo Valley. You’re going to come past this big amusement park.”

Along with the bike trails and pump tracks weaving through the property, development plans include an aerial ropes course around a 53-foot central platform, splash park, welcome center, day camp and community garden.

Representatives of Mount Hermon contend they designed the facility from the ground up with impact on the environment and surrounding community in mind.

“The detractors are characterizing it as Disneyland,” said Lisa Olson, director of Program Ministries and Marketing at Mount Hermon. “ … It’s just going to look green.”

In terms of water use, Olson added, “We can’t figure out what we could have designed on this 15-acre property to use less water than we’re using.”

Mount Hermon purchased the Felton property from South County Housing in 2012 after a South County Housing development plan fell through following “community opposition” over similar environmental concerns, according to a county planning commission staff report.

The same September 2014 report found the environmental impacts weren’t serious enough to necessitate an environmental impact report and recommended approval of the development.

But letters quickly rolled in from the Valley Women’s Club, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the San Lorenzo Valley Water District and Caltrans raising potential impacts on the watershed and endangered salmonids and traffic congestion caused by up to 1,300 daily vehicle trips.

County Supervisor Bruce McPherson and Renee Shepherd, the district’s planning commissioner, added their voices early in 2015 and by June a reevaluation had been made.

“We insisted, given the scope and nature of the project, that a full EIR was, at minimum, what was called for in this instance,” Shepherd said, adding that she “can’t understand” why it wasn’t initially mandated.

The final Environmental Impact Report is anticipated to be released in August, Sexauer said. Until then, the project that Mount Hermon calls the “Felton Meadow” appears fated to stay exactly that.

DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL

What: 15-acre velocity bike park with day camp and other amenities.

Cost: $10 million estimated.

Developer: Mount Hermon, a nonprofit Christian retreat center association.

Water: 2,252 gallons/day to irrigate 14.1 percent of site.

Traffic: 1,321 daily trips at peak usage.

Timeline: Draft environmental impact report expected April 2016.

Sources: Mount Hermon, Santa Cruz County Planning Department.

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County Concedes – Felton Meadow Not Suitable for Development

Felton Meadow on a summer morning. Labeled by developers as a distressed, toxic "brown site" in need of redevelopment. Public agencies spent over $5 million in support of the developer. 4000 valley residents fought back.

The County of Santa Cruz this week conceded what we and the majority of our community have known for 7 years. That “an affordable housing project is no longer feasible on the Felton site and that the County loans with respect to the Felton site will not be repaid by the Developer” South County Housing Corporation.

$5 million and not one bit of public benefit. The ill-fated project defied the written terms and certainly the spirit of the Felton Town Plan and the concerns of the majority of the community. It ignored water and septic issues, endangered species, architectural vernacular, green building sensibilities, and the sincerity of public process.

The next use of the property appears to be recreational. We look forward to watching that process move forward authentically.

Air Quality and Outdoor Burning

Lots of talk about outdoor burning and its impact on air quality in the San Lorenzo Valley. This year’s winter season with its relative lack of air-clearing rainfall was particularly notable.

The Sentinel’s Jason Hoppin wrote about the issue.

Donna Smith of Ben Lomond sent this letter to the Sentinel:

Wow, was your air quality as bad as mine this week? I guess some of you haven’t researched health issues caused by soot particles that are created by wood fires yet: 50 to 70 percent of this toxic smoke is entering your home and lungs. Please join us at cleanvalleyair2012@yahoo.com to work toward clean air for all of us.