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Santa's Village Scotts Valley News

July 26, 2000

Proposed development gets smaller and smaller

Sentinel staff writer

SCOTTS VALLEY — Call it the incredible shrinking development.

Ten years ago, city officials approved a plan to build 157 homes at the 115-acre Polo Ranch off Santa’s Village Road. That was before a controversy arose over a rare pink wildflower found on the site.

Now a developer wants to build 40 executive-style houses on the property, one of the last large open spaces left in the city. But a consultant recommends the project be scaled back to 29 homes.

Whether developer Greystone Homes will take that route remains to be seen.

"They’re not changing their application," said Laura Kuhn, the city’s community development director.

The environmental impact report by the consultant, Oakland-based Impact Sciences, was released Monday. It comes in two volumes, each an inch thick.

The consultant concludes that the project would have four significant, unavoidable impacts:

— Congestion on Highway 17.

— Loss of 19 acres of grassland habitat for endangered species such as the Scotts Valley spineflower and removal of 189 trees, including 95 with "heritage" status.

— More pressure on the city water supply.

— Obstruction of scenic views.

The consultant’s preferred alternative would halve the number of trees removed and preserve more of the grasslands and wetlands although there would still be significant impacts on traffic and views.

The City Council plans a public hearing on the project Aug. 16.

Various proposals to develop the property, once the site of the Santa’s Village tourist attraction, have surfaced over the past 15 years. City officials approved the 157-home project proposed by a San Jose firm after rejecting the idea of 325 townhomes.

That firm gave up after the spineflower, now federally protected, was discovered on the property. The Borland software company, now known as Inprise, bought the land but never developed it. Three years ago, Greystone Homes proposed 95 homes.

The project now before the city calls for 40 upscale homes clustered on about 20 acres, leaving 94 acres of open space. The homes would be up to 4,200 square feet on lots of up to 30,720 square feet. As envisioned, the homes would be ready for occupancy in 2002.

Oak trees removed would have to be replaced on a two-for-one basis, and upland habitat would have to be converted to wetlands to replace habitat destroyed during construction.

Although no red-legged frogs, Zayante band-winged grasshoppers or Ohlone tiger beetles — all protected species — have been found on the property, the developer would have to hire a biologist to conduct a survey. An archeologist would be required to oversee excavation in case prehistoric Indian artifacts are found.

The developer proposes to give the city the historic but deteriorating Polo Ranch barn, built by famed architect William Wurster for golfer Marion Hollins.

Local architect Gil Sanchez estimated the cost of repairing the building for use as a museum or meeting facility, and installing utilities, landscaping, and parking, would be at least $1.24 million — money the city doesn’t have.

To meet the city’s affordable housing requirement, the developer proposes to build six units on Scotts Valley Drive to be sold at below-market rates.

Lately, city residents have given developers the cold shoulder, voting down a residential project on Glenwood Drive last year, and threatening to sue over townhomes proposed for Glen Canyon Road. Glen Canyon opponents struck a deal with the developer to downsize the number of units.

This project, like the one on Glen Canyon Road, is referendum-proof because it is proposed for a redevelopment area.

Nevertheless, Kuhn expects it will receive extensive scrutiny.

"This site, like Glenwood, has a history," she said. "Both have sensitive habitat."

November 11, 2000

Protection sought for rare herb

Sentinel staff writer

SCOTTS VALLEY — A tiny herb that grows only in Scotts Valley is the most recent poster plant for the Endangered Species Act.

The 2-inch-tall Scotts Valley polygonum (Polygonum hickmanii) was proposed for federal protection Thursday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There are only 11 known colonies growing in two spots about a mile away from each other in the northern end of Scotts Valley. All are on private property.

One spot is north of Casa Way just outside a preserve next to the Scotts Valley High School.

The other is at the Polo Ranch site on land where 40 homes are proposed to be built.

Conservation efforts were included as part of the development agreement for the high school and are expected to be included in the Polo Ranch development, according to information published in the federal register.

The native herb was discovered in 1993 by Santa Cruz biologist Randy Morgan. Morgan was surveying plants in the Glenwood Meadow horse pasture which, at the time, was proposed to be developed with housing and a golf course.

Morgan later found the plant at the former Santa’s Village-Polo Ranch, also in northern Scotts Valley.

Morgan named the plant after J.C. Hickman, the late editor of a reference manual on plant species.

A member of the buckwheat family, Scotts Valley polygonum is an annual herb that grows one to two inches tall and flowers with a single white bloom in late May to August.

The rare herb apparently likes to keep company with the equally rare Scotts Valley spineflower, which has already been given federal protection.

The agency said the plant faces threats and perhaps extinction from urban development, trampling by people, pets, bicycles and off-road vehicles and changes in water conditions, soil disturbance and random natural events such as fire or floods.

The Glenwood colony is also threatened by Scotch broom, an invasive species that has invaded to within a few feet of one of the colonies.




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