Larkspur Landing Hotel expansion facing opposition

By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
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Either the developer made just enough concessions to squeak their hotel project past Folsom officials this month or it was the city that relaxed its standards. There are two very different interpretations to the May 11 Folsom City Council vote that cleared the path for a Sacramento developer to erect a four-story hotel that’s been in the planning stages for nearly eight years. Allegheny Properties was granted a development permit to construct the free-standing lodgings that are technically an expansion of the Larkspur Landing Hotel after much debate over tree preservation and access to a nearby historic sluice digging site believed to have been mined by local Chinese laborers. The plan has seen some modifications since planning commission approval was successfully appealed in 2005, with 12 rooms added, 17 parking stalls removed and 13 additional trees slated for preservation. The planning commission recommended approval once again this past March, setting the stage for the council’s May 11 consideration. Trees were the primary issue for the city council when it sent the project back to its planning staff and the applicant five years ago. The council wanted 43 out of 135 trees saved. A revised summary shows 121 blue and interior live oaks that could be salvaged, with the developer now pledging to save 37. That was evidently enough of a compromise for a majority of the council, though council members Kerry Howell and Ernie Sheldon voted against granting the permit. Barbara Leary, a member of the Natoma Station Community Organization that appealed the project back in 2005, hopes to parlay the lack of consensus into more discussion. She says the city relaxed a number of conditions due to the constricted nature of the building site, something she thinks will prove a bad precedent for future projects. In his staff report to council members, community development director David Miller indicated there were only so many alterations the developer and city staff could make, given the limited size and conditions of the building site. “As the site is constrained with oaks on a steep grade and its configuration and access is atypical for a commercial site, the project’s development potential is severely hampered,” Miller wrote. Known as Lot Y, the 2.9-acre triangle-shaped parcel is one of the last chunks of land available for development in the Natoma Station mixed-use development project. After appeals from the Natoma Station Community Organization and Friends of the Folsom Parkways, among others, the developer agreed to reduce the number of parking stalls to 109, freeing up pedestrian access to a sluice digging site Folsom preservationists envision as a historic local draw. Leary’s organization agreed to pool money with the Natoma Station Homeowners Association and Historic Preservation League of Folsom toward legal fees to fight the project. In the meantime, Allegheny Properties has the permit it has long sought. “We were very pleased that the community development department recognized the extraordinary efforts we went through to make the project as compatible with the diggings site as possible, and supported it,” said attorney Bob Holderness, the former Folsom mayor who represented Allegheny Properties. “Now we are hopeful that the opponents will put our past disagreements behind us and join my clients and the city of Folsom in making the diggings site the best possible tourist attraction and exemplar of historic sluice mining in Folsom.”