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'You’ve got noise, you've got pollution' | El Dorado Hills neighbors worried about a proposed development

A developer wants to build two large distribution warehouses alongside the El Dorado Hills Business Park, but neighbors worry about what the project could bring.

EL DORADO HILLS, Calif. — A development 7x the size of Golden 1 Center could be coming to a rural community and neighbors are unhappy.

It’s called Project Frontier and the developer’s plans call for two massive distribution warehouses on some 200 acres next to the El Dorado Hills Business Park.

The developer – Dermody Properties, a national logistics real estate firm – says it will bring jobs and money to the community. Neighbors say those benefits don’t outweigh their concerns.

More than 150 El Dorado Hills neighbors packed into – and spilled out of – the conference room at Fire Station 85, for a standing-room-only meeting of the El Dorado Hills Area Planning Advisory Committee (APAC) Wednesday. 

Discussion of Project Frontier was on the agenda and the developer was there to give a presentation.

Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., a land economics consulting firm, conducted an economic impact analysis on Project Frontier. Sean Fisher, an economist with the company, presented the findings at the meeting.

“It’s about $718 million in economic activity created in the county during that construction period. That generates about 5,300 job years,” Fisher said, explaining a job year is one year of work for one person. “On an ongoing basis, the project is anticipated to support 1,500-2,000 employees. We also estimate that the project will generate about $10.4 million to $23.4 million in annual revenue to the county for funding various General Fund services, including public safety.”

The El Dorado Hills APAC already submitted questions to the developer based on their review of materials the developer and land owner submitted to El Dorado County. The developer provided written answers to those questions a day before the meeting.

Neighbors attending the meeting – more than 150 in-person and more than 100 others joining virtually – brought their questions and concerns to the committee and developer.

“How in the heck is this not going to, at certain times, create stop-and-go traffic?” asked Kelley Nalewaja.

Another neighbor, Sally Morello, said, “My two concerns are noise pollution and diesel pollution.”

The proposed development would bring two distribution centers, with a combined total square footage seven times larger than Sacramento’s 675,000-square-foot Golden 1 Center. The total footprint size of the two buildings would be about 1.7 million square feet. 

The overall size - including the square footage of each floor of each building - brings the two buildings' combined size to about 4.8 million square feet.

So who’s trying to come to town? Dermody Properties tells ABC10 the “tenant is private.” But an incorrect address left on the plans submitted to El Dorado County shows two identical-looking facilities in San Diego and the tenant there is Amazon.

“You’ve got noise, you've got pollution,” said neighbor Bill Grava. “We don't need this kind of facility with this magnitude in this area.”

He worries a project this big would make traffic congestion even worse. The developer says a transportation impact analysis report estimates the project would bring more than 5,000 additional car and truck trips per day.

“Currently, El Dorado Hills Boulevard and Latrobe [Road] backs up at White Rock [Road], rush hours - morning and afternoon - almost a half mile. Compound that with this facility going up, possibly, and you've got some real problems," said Grava.

El Dorado Hills APAC chair John Davey is studying the developer’s plans.

“They're proposing to add two additional travel lanes on Latrobe Road to the interchange, but a lot of people don't have the feeling that that's going to be sufficient to address sort of that level of service concern,” said Davey. “The traffic concern is pretty valid. This project, in specific, proposes to have a lot of additional traffic on our main road - El Dorado Hills Boulevard / Latrobe Road - probably the busiest road, by traffic, in the county, in an unincorporated area.”

The developer says talks with the county about this project started last year. Many neighbors told ABC10 they only caught wind of it in the past few weeks on social media and are alarmed by the size of the proposed project and what they think it could do to their views, property value, and/or quality of life.

“My property value is ultimately tied into when I get to retire and what type of education I can provide grandchildren, and so that economic issue is a personal issue for all of us,” said neighbor Robert Gordon.

The 207 acres where the development is planned is currently correctly zoned for the project, but one of the proposed buildings is taller than what the county allows so the conditional use permit would need to be approved.

As for what’s next, the El Dorado Hills APAC will prepare a report with their recommendation to approve, modify or reject this proposed development, but county leaders aren’t required to take their advice.

Formed in 1981, the committee is made up of volunteers who live in the El Dorado Hills community. They study proposed developments in the area, like Project Frontier, and come up with a recommendation for county leaders to either approve, modify or reject the plans.

"Over the course of all those years, there have been several projects that have been modified based off of the feedback and the input from El Dorado Hills APAC, and it does result in better projects," said Davey. "There are many that, well, you know, they don't listen to us. And that's fair. But all we ask is for the opportunity to be heard as residents."

The El Dorado County Planning and Building Department’s Zoning Administrator will ultimately be the one to decide whether to approve a conditional use permit for the project. A public meeting isn't scheduled yet but could be as early as April.

If that permit is approved, neighbors can appeal the decision to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.

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