The Madera County Board of Supervisors re-approved 4-0 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 Monday. Supervisor Frank Bigelow did not attend the special meeting.
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.
Brett McCaffrey, son of Robert McCaffrey, president of McCraffry Homes, developers of the project, made the presentation on behalf of the company.
Also speaking in support of the project was Bobby Kahn, executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, attorney John Sanger representing McCaffrey Homes, businessman Vic Breedlove and Chawanakee School Superintendent Robert Nelson.
Kahn said the project will give Madera County the opportunity to be the home of a planned community that will be the envy of the Central Valley.
"It will not only create construction jobs but will also be developing three million square feet of commercial and industrial space that will create approximately 7,000 permanent jobs," Kahn said. "This project is definitely a positive game changer for Madera County and the entire region. The McCaffrey Group is a great development company with the upmost integrity and The Madera County Economic Development Commission is excited to be working on this project."
Breedlove, a second generation owner of a Madera roofing company, told the supervisors the proposed project is the most exciting thing to happen in Madera County for many years.
After the three-hour meeting, 5th District Supervisor Tom Wheeler said it takes pioneers to do large developments like Teso Viejo.
"McCaffrey is a pioneer ... He has the resources and is willing to take a chance to help the community, the county, the schools and help all our county services to grow."
Wheeler said McCraffry is willing to put up the cost of making Highway 41 four lanes from Ave. 12 to Ave. 15 before any building starts on the project.
"No one has every done that in Madera County," Wheeler said. "At build out, this new community will provide many jobs and will generate millions of dollars in in property and sales tax forever. The project will create a place for people to live and work and will mean more children for our schools that have all experienced declining enrollments the past few years, along with light industrial that is badly needed in Madera County."
Speaking against the project were representatives of Revive the San Joaquin, the Clean Air Coalition and attorney Sara Hedgpeth-Harris, who represents the Madera Oversight Coalition along with attorney Patience Milrod.
Superior court ordered additional EIR details
County planning previously recommended and the board of supervisors approved the Teso 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.
To comply with the court writs, the EIR was revised to provide additional analysis regarding alternative sources of water, traffic and archaeological mitigation measures.
The court action came after a suit was filed by the Madera Oversight Coalition. The current chairman of the group is Bruce Gray of O'Neals.
After the planning commission's recommendation of approval, 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 Teso 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.
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.