Neighborhood activists upset with proposed development near Rocklin's Sierra College

By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Some Sierra College neighbors are upset they have not had much input for a proposed development planned for Rocklin Road between El Don Drive and Sierra College Boulevard.

The project, Sierra Villages, is a planned development with residential and mixed uses as well as parks and open space.

The proposed Sierra Villages sits on 107.2 acres; a 71.4-acres North Village, located at northeast corner of Rocklin Road and Sierra College Boulevard, and a 35.8 South Village located at the southeast corner of Rocklin Road and El Don Drive.

Rocklin resident Denise Gaddis, an El Don Neighborhood Advisory Committee member, said she has tried since November 2016 when the Sierra College Board of Trustees voted to designate property along Rocklin Road as surplus to have a community discussion of the project.

“We were told, ‘No, it is in the hands of the developers,’” Gaddis said Wednesday. “Not once has a member of the Board of Trustees responded to emails from the community and they’re elected people.”

“We all have a positive idea of the college and it’s shocking they aren’t interested in our concerns,” Gaddis added.

Loomis resident Roger Smith is disappointed that the Sierra College trustees are “moving forward with a developer's massive proposal for the college's 107 acres of surplus lands without listening directly to the concerns of the community.”

“The trustees have an obligation to first consider local community input, especially from neighbors who will be affected by the plan,” Smith said Wednesday. “The college is a public entity supported by taxpayers who recently approved a $350- million bond to support Sierra College.”

Several appeals were made by citizens to college staff and the trustees to involve early public review of their surplus land development plans, according to Smith.

“In response to pressure from neighbors, a community meeting was recently held. However, not one college trustee was present to hear community concerns,” Smith said. “The meeting was presented by the hired college attorney and a representative of Cresleigh Homes, another developer, who stands to benefit handsomely by squeezing a high-density residential plan on much of the surplus land.”

Sue Michaels, a  Sierra College spokeswoman, said the public has been notified and forums held since the college updated its Facilities Master Plan in 2015-2016.

“The trustees, in a meeting in November of 2016, voted to surplus the adjacent property,” Michaels said. “There was a lot of opportunity for public input during the process.”

“Parallel to the process, the college was interviewing developers and reviewing developers’ ideas,” Michaels added. “The college wanted the right developer with a vision that fit the campus. At this point, it is with the city of Rocklin and the developer (Evergreen). It’s not a Sierra College thing.”

However, Sierra College still owns the property proposed for development.

“There is an agreement in place but the property won’t transfer until the developer takes the property through the city of Rocklin’s entitlement process,” Michaels said. “This is to protect the college in case the developer can’t perform.”

Sierra College President/Superintendent Willy Duncan said selling the surplus property will provide funding for the campus.

Because the state no longer provides significant funding for community college facilities, the Board of Trustees has had a long-time interest in establishing an alternative source of revenue,Duncan said. “When it was determined that the adjacent properties were not needed for educational purposes during our Facilities Master Planning process, it created an opportunity to finally develop that alternative source. We also felt it was important that we demonstrated that we were using all of our assets, all of our resources, to the fullest extent, before we asked our community for their support for Measure E.

Both Gaddis and Smith are critical of the proposed project’s density.

“So now we have a developer-driven plan with almost 500 high-density, 'small-lot' homes that neighbors oppose, in large part due to huge traffic impacts to already congested college-zone roadways,” Smith said. “This shows disdain for community opinion and neglect of the traffic impacts to their own student population.”

“If this project goes through, it will be another case of poor planning, due in part to failing to consider public input,” Smith added. “Sierra College trustees have an public obligation to be a good neighbor and take an active role in the ways their proposed developments will affect the community, especially since the college is taxpayer-supported."

Gaddis said she is not against development but against poor quality development.

“This is not acceptable to the community or compatible,” Gaddis said. “We want something more consistent with the existing neighborhood; larger lots and street parking, not super-high density.”