Sacramento County considers turning mines into retail, housing

Published: Saturday, Apr. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

The West Jackson Highway area has contributed much to the Sacramento region's development because of the concrete and asphalt material mined there for more than 80 years.

But now the two companies that have long mined the area want to transform the scarred land itself into a major residential and commercial development.

Teichert and Granite Construction companies are working with Sacramento County on a master planned community that would convert 5,900 acres of rural property into urban development, including housing and businesses.

The companies own 70 percent of the land in the planning area, which runs southeast of downtown Sacramento on both sides of Jackson Road/state Highway 16 from South Watt Avenue to Excelsior Road. Much of the mining potential in the area has been exhausted and the sites have been restored, although the companies still have operations there.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a workshop on the proposal Tuesday at 2:45 p.m. Planners will ask the board to start the environmental review process, kicking off a permitting process that could last up to four years.

County planners think the concept is smart.

"We think it's a very good reuse of that area," said county Planning Director Leighann Moffitt.

In addition to the mining operations, the area has not been good for development because it long had to contend with flight traffic from the former Mather Air Force Base, she said.

The airport no longer handles military planes but serves as an air cargo hub for the region. The West Jackson plan excludes housing from the area around Mather Airport.

The Environmental Council of Sacramento is concerned about several proposed developments along Jackson Road because they would create more housing than the region needs and because they're too far from existing urban development, said Ron Maertz of ECOS.

The West Jackson plan, however, is one ECOS might support because it is closer to existing development than other proposed projects and is included in the region's sustainable communities plan, Maertz said.

Objections to the West Jackson project so far have come largely from residents living in the area, county planners say. Those residents say they moved to a rural community and want it to stay that way.

While the developers plan to transform the area, they don't want to bury its history. The Teichert project, being developed by a subsidiary called StoneBridge Properties, undertook an extensive research project to better understand the land's past.

The company published a book called "Stories of the Land," with local historian Paula J. Peper examining the area's mining, agricultural and cultural histories.

"We're doing it in a way that really knits the heritage back into the community," said Randy Sater, president of StoneBridge Properties.

One way the past would appear in the development: a seven-mile conveyor system once used to transport mined material would become Rock Creek Parkway.

The parkway would serve as the area's central thoroughfare for vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic.

The developers plan to donate the right of way. Public financing would help pay for parkway construction. The parkway could have a decorative median with some sort of transit, such as a trolley.

Another historical element that would come into play is farming, which is still done in the area. StoneBridge plans to build several urban farms in the community.

The farms would sell fresh produce to area residents and to stores in other areas, Sater said. The farms also might work with Elk Grove schools to provide food and agricultural education, he said.

StoneBridge is working with Rancho Cordova's Soil Born Farms, which promotes urban farming, on how the developer might organize its urban farms, Sater said.

StoneBridge also plans to incorporate lessons from Sacramento neighborhoods built around parks, Sater said. The company plans to plant larger trees than typically found in suburban neighborhoods and pay close attention to architectural integrity, he said.

The project would require supervisors to amend the county's general plan because most of the land is outside the county's urban planning area.

Call The Bee's Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @ BradB_at_SacBee.

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