Supervisors to decide on Teso Viejo proposal Nov. 5

Brian WilkinsonNovember 1, 2012 

A special meeting of the Madera County Board of Supervisors will be held at 9 a.m., Monday, Nov. 5, in Madera as developers seek the re-approval of The 1,656-acre, 5,190-home Tesoro Viejo (Rio Mesa) planned urban community located east of Highway 41, three miles north of Ave. 12 on property known as the Peck Ranch.

The project was recommended for re-approval 4-0 by the Madera County Planning Commission Oct. 2.

The project proposes a mixed-use development consisting of 5,190 dwelling units, three million square feet of commercial, retail, office and light industrial uses (restaurants, hotels, medical offices) along with 350 acres of open space and recreational areas including trails and neighborhood parks. About 60 acres has been designated for schools.

Full project buildout, with a population close to 16,000, has been estimated for 2025.

At the Oct. 2 planning commission hearing, San Francisco attorney John Sanger, who represents project developer McCaffrey Homes of Fresno, said the project is a response to Madera County's desire to establish a new growth center in the Rio Mesa area with a full town containing not merely homes but commerce and recreational facilities at the highest possible quality level.

"Such a new town would represent a desirable place to live and work in Madera County ... in a well-planned, non-sprawl community. That is what the County General Plan has asked for and my client has responded."

Superior court ordered additional EIR details

County planning previously recommended and the board of supervisors approved the Tesoro Viejo project on Dec. 8, 2008, but the project was put on hold by court proceedings that required the developer and the county to provide more technical analysis and mitigation measurers in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for roads, traffic and water. Additional revisions were made with regards to air quality, noise and biological resources.

The court action came after a suit was filed by attorneys representing the Madera Oversight Coalition. The current chairman of the group is Bruce Gray of O'Neals.

The group is represented by Fresno attorney's Patience Milrod and Sara Hedgpeth-Harris. Milrod said the coalition is a pro-growth group that believes developers should follow the laws that protect the community from specific adverse impacts of any given development.

To comply with the court writs, the EIR has been revised to provide additional analysis regarding alternative sources of water, traffic and archaeological mitigation measures.

Milrod said the revised EIR still does not address the project's huge traffic impacts which will include tens of thousands more daily trips on Highway 41 and on surrounding county roads.

"The project will be dumping massive amounts of new traffic daily onto local roads, including Highway 41," Milrod said. "This is especially worrisome because the county is also considering a huge new rock quarry project near the intersection of Highways 41 and 145 ... so imagine all the traffic that already moves up and down 41, plus all the Tesoro Viejo truck and commuter traffic and 1,000 semi's with double trailers full of gravel every day. The EIR includes no guarantees the developers will construct adequate road improvements to handle all that additional traffic.

Milrod also feels it is irresponsible for the county to approve a project until it has proof that the developer and or the Madera Irrigation District have received the necessary permits to provide water for the project.

Rio Meza Area Plan

According to the county planning staff report, Madera County recognized the potential for large-scale development in the southeastern portion of the county in 1990, based an increase in development interests from private land owners, the proposed relocation of the Valley Children's Hospital to the area, and the potential for a future University of California campus in the county (that eventually went to Merced County).

These factors led the county to concentrate on this portion of the county for future urbanization and the implementation of a master plan for the Rio Mesa Area as part of the county's General Plan to provide a planning framework for development projects such as Tesoro Viejo. The Rio Meza Area Plan is bounded by Highway 41 to the west, the San Joaquin River and Fresno County to the east, Road 145 and the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area to the north and northeast and the San Joaquin River to the south.

The only residential project approved by the county larger than Tesoro Viejo is Gateway Village off Highway 41 at Ave. 12. That project, consisting of 6,580 homes on more than 6,000 acres, was approved by supervisors in 2006 after settling a law suit with the Madera Oversight Coalition. No construction has began at the site. "The Madera Oversight Coalition has tried to work with both the county and the developer to find ways to reduce the impacts of Tesoro Viejo but the developer has refused to compromise," Milrod said. "My clients would like to be able to support this project, if it were done right."

The proceedings can be seen live at madera-county.com -- click on board of supervisors.

The proceedings can be seen live at madera-county.com — click on board of supervisors.

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