Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Provinsalia project draws concerns, comments

CLEARLAKE – City officials and community members came together Tuesday to hear the latest news on a controversial subdivision that proposes to build several hundred new homes along Cache Creek.

The hour-and-40-minute meeting, held Tuesday evening at Clearlake City Hall, was an opportunity for the City Council and Planning Commission to ask questions and make “nonbinding” comments on the Provinsalia early in the process, said City Administrator Dale Neiman.

“It's important that we know what you want related to the project,” he told council members and commissioners.

Over the next four to six months, Neiman said city staff will spend a “substantial” amount of time working on preparing the proposed final environmental impact report for a formal hearing. The document, released last week and reportedly the project's third environmental report draft, is more than 200 pages long.

If the Planning Commission and the council decides the environmental report is adequate, Neiman said that would lead to a list of other tasks, from general plan amendments to adoption of a specific area plan and a development agreement.

Dick Price of the Modesto-based Price Group is representing Cache Creek Inc., the company that is proposing Provinsalia. He made a presentation to the group to explain the project's current scope and answer questions.

“We've been at this for a while,” said Price.

Today, Provinsalia is slated to be built across 292 acres near Cache Creek off of Dam Road, said Price.

Originally, the project had been much larger, Price said, and included property outside of the city limits that stretched down to the dam. However, due to a variety of factors – accessibility, steep terrain and regulatory issues – they found the land unsuitable.

So the investors “jettisoned out of the project all the property not within the city of Clearlake,” said Price, and sold the land in order to make money for the project, which so far has been very expensive.

“I've spent almost $5 million here in case you're not aware of it,” he said.

The land sale pared the property down to a 720-unit subdivision with a nine-hole golf course and 70 acres of open space. Other adjustments to the plan have reduced the units further, said Price, so the final number of units is 660.

“We're still looking at a very large project here,” said Price.

As part of the project Price and the company proposes to build a new road, Provinsalia Avenue, which will enter the subdivision off of Dam Road, which will serve as an emergency exit.

There are still many issues to be worked out, including impacts on services. Price said the subdivision's water will be supplied by Konocti County Water District, which will have to increase the size of its pump station at the developer's expense.

The plan also proposes to take untreated water from Cache Creek to water the golf course, which will require permits from Yolo County officials as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, said Price.

During his presentation, Price also fielded questions about chemical use on the golf course – which will be handled by an integrated waste management program – to concerns about the plan's proposed homeowners association.

Regarding the latter, questions arose because council members and commissioners were concerned that, if the association were to eventually disband, it could impact the subdivision's basic maintenance issues. Neiman said the city can form maintenance districts, which can't be disbanded, to ensure that doesn't happen.

Price also said that the company will ensure that the subdivision reaches full buildout.

“This is all driven by a need to make a profit,” he said. “We can't get our money back 'til we sell those lots and somebody builds those houses.”

Funding, traffic among main issues

Another area of significant concern is the proposed use of a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District, a bond measure that would finance public improvements and services and be repaid by a special tax assessed on residents of the district.

Price confirmed that using a Mello-Roos district is still in the plans to fund the subdivision's infrastructure.

That concerned Council member Judy Thein, who didn't want the city left in the lurch if the project doesn't follow through on its promises. “So what is our safeguard there?”

“We would build in safeguards,” said Neiman said.

He added that Mello-Roos financing is tax-exempt and offers a lower interest rate, but can only apply to public improvements.

Victoria Brandon of Lake County's Sierra Club chapter also voiced concern that the financing proposal could expose the city and its taxpayers to a major risk, which Neiman said the city wouldn't let happen.

Neiman said the responsibility to pay back the bonds would fall on the homeowners in the subdivision.

“But if the properties aren't constructed who's going to repay that money?” Brandon asked.

Neiman said that issue will be considered and a solution found to prevent the city being left holding the bag.

Mayor Curt Giambruno pointed out that the Mello-Roos proposal isn't mentioned in the environmental impact report, and noted the proposal would need the city's approval. Price added that, if the homes didn't sell, the land would be sold off to pay back the financing.

Kelseyville resident Angela Siegel, a teacher at Carle High School who has monitored the project closely over the last several years, said if the project doesn't repay the funds there will be implications for the city. “It's your entire credit rating for anything else you might want to do.”

She then questioned Price on the background for Cache Creek Inc. Her research found that the company was registered in Delaware and based in Houston, Texas, but hasn't filed its corporation in Delaware for the last three years. Price said he didn't have information on those issues.

Another major issue that arose during the meeting were the project's plan to remove 1,400 oak trees, many of them smaller, said Price. The property has about 26,000 oak trees total, he added. The removed trees would be replanted elsewhere.

Glenn Goodman questioned how the city would provide increased services for the subdivision. The main service that would have to be provided, said Neiman, is policing, which the city has an obligation to provide. Sewer, water and schools would be supported by developer fees.

Herb Gura, president of the Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees, didn't believe the report had addressed community concerns. “The final EIR (environmental impact report) basically says we don't think we have to do anything more.”

He added, “The city should not consider it a foregone conclusion that this project will move ahead.”

One matter that arose repeatedly related to potential traffic impacts on Lake Street, along which are located some area schools. A traffic study indicated that there are currently 3,000 trips a day down Lake Street, said Neiman.

Supervisor Jeff Smith who – along with Supervisor Ed Robey – was on hand to comment on the plan, said the county has jurisdiction over Lake Street, and increased traffic is a concern there for both he and Robey.

Giambruno said the traffic issue has been with the project from the start. “I'm not sure that it's been solved.”

Price said a traffic study completed for Provinsalia makes “endless” suggestions to address those concerns. Solutions, he added, will be expensive. “If you read that I think you'll find we're way ahead of you on this.”

Siegel asked the council and commission to go back to the general plan and look at the section on “resources protection” zoning, the designation currently assigned to the land. She said the language is clear, that it was not intended to subdivide parcels and sell them piecemeal, but was intended for a total project.

Adopting a specific plan area for the property will allow for less environmental protection than the current zoning, said Siegel. “This particular specific plan violates the intent and spirit of the original zoning to protect this unique parcel.”

Planning Commissioner Al Bernal said he believes the project would be very beneficial for Clearlake, and that the golf course could add to Clearlake's appeal as a destination.

Neiman said staff will begin working on reports to bring back to the council and commission regarding the project's environmental impact report and its adequacy.

“Basically it's on my shoulders to get the work done,” said Neiman.

Copies of the report are available at Clearlake City Hall, where members of the public can see a hard copy. For a $3 fee, a CD with the full report can be purchased.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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