Occupying over 82 forested acres, on a prime ridge between the Grass Valley City limits and Empire Mine State Park, Rattlesnake Ridge had for years been known only to a small group of equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers. Could the property be developed in such a way that the large majority of its wildlife-rich woodlands would be protected? Could the property be developed in such a way that its trails could continue to be accessible to the public? And could such a development provide a decent return on the property owner’s investment? As “collaborative conservationists” we believed that the value-added from open space and trails could be a “win-win-win”, benefiting the public, the developer, and the eventual residents of the development. Rattlesnake Ridge Estates gave us the opportunity to put that belief to the test.
As with most projects, we began by studying the site. First we mapped the vegetation, identifying the riparian areas, the coniferous forests, the oak woodland and disturbed areas. We not only evaluated the type of vegetation, but the quality of it as well.
The Process (cont.):
As with all development in the foothills, slope constraints were a major concern in our design efforts. The steeper the grade, the higher the development costs and the greater the impacts on the environment. Computers make slope studies much easier than they were back in the days of hand-drafting.
The goal was to create a development which maximized the environmental qualities of the site, creating value for the developer, the residents, and the community. Our development plan for the 82+ acre development included:
- A reduction in project density from 27 to 17 lots, creating a large open space reserve.
- The open space reserve was further increased by reducing lot sizing from 3 to 2 acres.
- Additional woodland was protected by limiting development within the parcels to building envelopes a little over a half acre in size.
- Trails were constructed throughout the open space, and deeded to the Bear Yuba Land Trust.
The result? Over 62 of the site’s 82 acres are permanently protected open space, the trails are well used and appreciated by the public and residents alike, and the project is fully built out, with some of the finest homes in Nevada County.
The intention of the submittal set was to provide both the community and the Nevada County Planning Commission with a full description of the proposed project, one that fully addressed their questions and concerns. As a result, the project gained considerable support from the neighborhood, and the unanimous approval of the Planning Commission.