Public comments on Highway 68’s proposed Ferrini Ranch get feisty.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
The grazing cattle that help make Highway 68 a scenic corridor would still range along the eastern half of the road, even if a proposed 250-acre development goes through.
That assurance from developer Mark Kelton of Santa Monica-based Domain Corp., and builder Ray Harrod, Jr. of Harrod Construction Company in Salinas, hasn’t assuaged Toro Park neighbors, whose public comments on the draft environmental impact report for Ferrini Ranch reflect many concerns.
“The visual impact will depend on the angle of the viewer,” one commenter wrote. Others listed wildlife corridors, traffic, noise and water supply among their issues with the proposal. The public comment period closed Nov. 16.
Kelton says the 212-unit project would preserve the scenery by building homes in troughs of the rolling hills south of Highway 68, out of visual range from the road. “Can we make everybody happy? No. But we’ll do our best to do a sensitive project,” Kelton says.
The Ferrini Ranch property stretches from San Benancio Road to River Road on 860 acres. The draft EIR came out seven years after Kelton and Harrod first submitted site plans, which include a 35-acre winery and tasting room off River Road.
“The Highway 68 Coalition finds the Ferrini Ranch [draft] EIR mostly unintelligible,” coalition founder Mike Weaver wrote. “We suggest it be reassessed, reevaluated, clarified, rewritten and then recirculated.”
The developer has sunk upwards of $700,000 into the EIR and county planning fees so far.
The proposal also calls for using 3.4 acres of parkland in Toro Park to construct an access road. Kelton’s preference would be for a whole new road off Highway 68, cutting from Toro Park Estates (also his project) across the street.
That new road would come with a stoplight and widen a little over a mile of Highway 68 to four lanes. Kelton says that would help traffic move better. “We got Caltrans’ blessing,” he says.
But it’s a conditional blessing, based on a Nov. 15 letter from California Department of Transportation planner John Olejnik to county planners, citing concerns with drainage, visual impact and effects on wildlife. “Given the potential impacts to this area as a result of the development, Caltrans’ support for the new connection to Highway 68 is conceptual,” Olejnik wrote.
As to neighbors’ concerns about the scale of the project, Kelton and Harrod say their proposal is as low as they can go to make money. “We could’ve played the game and submitted 450 lots and then gone down to 212,” Harrod says.
As to whether Harrod and Kelton will build the 212 Ferrini Ranch homes themselves or sell empty lots, Kelton says, “Ask us again after the project is approved.”