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Decision delayed indefinitely on proposed RV park on Sky Ranch Road

A map of the designated area for the planned RV park in Oakhurst along Sky Ranch Road. The Madera County Planning Commission unanimously moved to recommend that the board of supervisors approve the construction of the park.
A map of the designated area for the planned RV park in Oakhurst along Sky Ranch Road. The Madera County Planning Commission unanimously moved to recommend that the board of supervisors approve the construction of the park. Courtesy of Madera County

The decision on the planned RV park along Sky Ranch Road in Oakhurst has been delayed indefinitely by the Madera County Board of Supervisors after area residents fought against the park’s approval.

The 40-acre RV and camping park was scheduled to be on the Tuesday’s agenda, but will now be put on hold so Red Tail Acquisitions, an Irvine real estate firm, can put together an environmental impact report. According to the Los Angeles Public Library, an EIR is “a report prepared if there is substantial evidence that a project may have a significant effect on the environment as set up in CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.”

According to Red Tail Acquisitions, the EIR could take between 9 to 12 months and the project will not be considered by the Board of Supervisors until the report is completed.

Red Tail’s decision comes in response to a group of about 20 residents who opposed the project. The group raised six major concerns they felt were overlooked in the county report.

“What are we gonna get out of it? More traffic, more noise, more light pollution?” said Dan Metz, resident of Sky Ranch Road and one of the group’s most active members.

The group got some help from Ragghianti/Freitas law firm located in San Rafael to formally demand an EIR from Red Tail. The firm represents the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, which owns and operates the Episcopal Conference Center Oakhurst. The conference center sits adjacent to the proposed project.

Metz and his group argue that Sky Ranch Road is too narrow to comply county codes, the traffic studies done for the county report are incomplete, the presence of the park would complicate RV park evacuations, there was not enough testing for hazardous chemicals, a lack of information on the impact the park would have on the water supply and that the park harms the neighbors.

Metz said that one of the more concerning aspects of the project is that the park would be built on what used to be a lumber mill that has been out of service for 40 years. He said lumber mills have a history of arsenic, chromated copper arsenate and creosote. The county report only included testing for hydrocarbons.

“You have to test for specific chemicals. If you want to see if there is arsenic in there, you have to test for arsenic,” Metz said.

Red Tail Acquisitions did include a mitigated negative declaration in their report, which declares, through research, that the project’s environmental impact on the community can be reduced to insignificance through project revisions. In a letter to the county, Red Tail Acquisitions stood by their report.

“While we believe the project has been studied sufficiently, we have decided to request that the County of Madera proceed with the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report versus the MND previously prepared,” it read.

The report included a traffic study that said the project “does not cause a significant impact” on traffic, as well as a number of other biological and environmental research that argued the project’s impact on the environment would be negligible.

Tom Wheeler, District 5 Supervisor, said he would not say whether supported the project, but said many of the resident’s concerns could easily be alleviated.

“One thing that people don’t realize is that those campers, they are coming up here anyways,” Wheeler said. “They’re coming no matter what, now they would just have another place to park their motorhomes.”

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