Sierra College, Rocklin want land plan

College wants revenue; City wants taxes from unused campus parcels
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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City of Rocklin senior leadership met with Sierra College officials on June 8 to consider unloading hundreds of acres of underutilized land parcels around the campus in an effort to develop a new source of revenue for both. ?They have hundreds of acres not currently in use,? Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said. ?If it?s land that does not have a beneficial use for the campus setting then it has a beneficial use potentially for them on the revenue generation to support their efforts.? How much land would be involved is still unclear, but some areas under consideration include the parking lot at Rocklin Road and El Don Drive, the land along Sierra College Boulevard across from the football stadium and acreage on the north between the edge of the campus and Interstate 80. According to Horst, some of the development could include student housing while other parcels could be available for retail development or a land lease deal with developers. ?Even though it may be retained ownership by the college, if is a master lease then they will still be responsible for paying certain taxes,? Horst said. ?It depends on how it is all orchestrated.? The stakes are high. The City of Rocklin has aggressively overhauled expenses since the recession began, which meant they were able to balance this year?s budget without dipping into reserves. City Council members have been very vocal about developing other revenue sources. With state cuts impacting the college, it?s estimated Sierra College?s general fund will sustain an overall $5.4 million operational deficit for the current fiscal year. Sierra College is in the midst of a facilities master planning process the city hopes to join. The talks coincide with the start of construction on more than 1 million square feet of retail space, including a WalMart and Target store along Sierra College Boulevard and Interstate 80. Potential sales tax revenue to the city is estimated in excess of $500,000 a year, according to Horst. Sierra College President Willy Duncan said the June 8 meeting was a ?very introductory meeting? with city staff to go over developments near the campus. ?We discussed the land that Sierra College owns surrounding the campus, but had no discussions about a development plan,? Duncan said. ?I look forward to working with the City of Rocklin in the future as we make decisions regarding the long-term future of the campus.? While the plan could take a while to develop, Rocklin City Council candidates Dan DeFoe, Ken Broadway, Greg Janda and Dave Butler have all expressed support for the idea. They are vying for three open seats on the Nov. 6 election. Officials in the Town of Loomis are watching any proposed deals closely and hope any impact on their town will be considered on any proposal. ?We see all the development around us and we want to preserve what we?ve got,? Loomis Town Council member Gary Liss said. ?We expect they?ll process the impacts and comments and hopefully they?ll take our comments under consideration and make adjustments.? Loomis has previously taken Rocklin to court over growth issues associated with development along their borders, although now Liss said the two governments are cooperating. ?At this stage, I believe we?re beyond the fights of the past and we?re working collaboratively with (Rocklin),? Liss said. Rocklin and Loomis citizens concerned about the 1,200 oak trees removed for development projects in the area see anymore land development as a threat. Irene Smith of Citizens for Tree Preservation is concerned the deal will result in the elimination of oak trees while creating a glut of retail space. ?It will definitely impact traffic and circulation, increase noise, air and light pollution on our border with Rocklin. In addition, it will mean the destruction of more native oak woodlands,? Smith said. Smith?s group wants the Rocklin City Council to focus on preservation ?The council seems to care only about advancement of the ?highest and best use? of lands within their borders. Until or unless Rocklin residents start protesting this blatant destruction of the environment, it will continue,? Smith said. The Council recently voted to hire an arborist to prepare an Oak Tree Planting plan for the city at a cost of $50,000. Horst pointed out the land across from the stadium is about 70 acres of ?barren? land and no trees. ?There is a lot of land that has no oak trees,? Horst said. ?I don?t think they are looking to develop all of it. They?re just looking to carve out some acreage here or there.?