No homes for Yuba Highlands
Property at one time slated for the Yuba Highlands development is now part of a conservation easement, with little chance anything other than wildlife and a few grazing cattle will ever live there.
Officials with the not-for-profit Trust for Public Land finalized acquisition late last week of about 1,600 acres of property east of Beale Air Force Base to join an existing easement for 800 other acres also slated for the project.
"As far as I can see, it's a perfect solution," said Yuba County Supervisor Hal Stocker, who led a ballot-box battle in 2008 in which county voters rejected the Yuba Highlands plan.
Proposed in 2002, Yuba Highlands was envisioned as a master-planned community of more than 5,000 homes on 2,900 acres. Though supervisors approved the project in 2007, a ballot measure in 2008 showed nearly 78 percent of the county's voters opposed the project.
Gary Gallelli, the developer who first proposed Yuba Highlands, did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
Under the easement, 2,453 acres will be jointly managed by the federal Department of Defense and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Markley Bavinger, a project manager with Trust for Public Land, said she expects the agencies will manage the easement as public access consistent with grazing.
The Trust for Public Land helped steer the acquisition of the 1,600 acres of oak hills and grassland. Bavinger said the Department of Defense, Department of Fish and Wildlife and Caltrans contributed toward buying the total acreage, along with an unspecified land donation from a property owner.
"We're thrilled that it's actually behind us now," she said. "It was amazing to work with some really strong partners on this."
Stocker said he was happy to hear Bavinger leave a message on his answering machine saying the land was protected forever from development.
Its proximity to Beale, he said, concerned some base officials, and the money from the Department of Defense to buy the property was intended to create a buffer around the base.
But Stocker said he would want to know more about how much public access the former Yuba Highlands property would have. The property is next to the Spenceville Wildlife Area, a popular destination for hunters, hikers and bird watchers.
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Financial contributions from various groups put 2,400 acres of Yuba County property into a conservation easement rather than for development as the Yuba Highlands project:
• Department of Defense: $2.6 million.
• California Department of Fish and Wildlife: $1 million.
• Caltrans: $350,000.
• An unspecified property owner made a land donation as part of the project.