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David Dirkes
02/19/2014 10:16 PM

The Jackson City Council is considering a few options concerning the Oro De Amador area — one for a mobile home park and another for hiking trails. However, before anything can be done on the property, which also had a proposal for a road to connect parts of the Jackson area, problems regarding soil toxicity need to be addressed.

Joe Chirco, owner of the Rollingwood Estates, proposed buying approximately 25 acres of the property to expand the mobile home park. Using the area for residential purposes would require additional testing to satisfy the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. It would also require a General Plan amendment to re-designate part of the property for residential use.

“I feel that this is an opportunity for the city to take the first step in the development of the Oro De Amador property,” said Chirco. “Working with staff, we can satisfy the need of the nature trails and at the same time begin the mediation and recreation facility needs that have for so long been planned and hoped for by the residents of Jackson. The expansion for the Rollingwood community would bring, just on a monthly basis, about $240,000 into the economy from the new residents.”

The Oro De Amador Study Group, an independent public group, is also interested in the property. The ODASG wants to install hiking trails for the general public. Before the area could be used recreationally, a risk assessment would have to be conducted, for which the group claims it has volunteers ready for the task. Jackson has already applied for funding through the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, but other funding may be required to cover trails, fencing or protective measures.

Jackson owned about 4.3 acres of Oro De Amador property, but acquired another 155 acres in 2006. Two studies conducted after the purchase showed high levels of arsenic in the soil in some spots, while some areas on the property tested within a safe threshold. The city has a $75,000 grant application in with the SNC to finance a Removal Action Workplan.

“There are some areas where there are some hotspots for arsenic, which is the primary contaminate of concern,” said Jackson City Manager Mike Daly. “We’ve been working ever since then to try to get the assessment work we need to have done and then come up with the plans that we need to do … . We did not submit an application to the Brownfield grant this time around, just because of that in-between stage that we are in.”

The RAW would help Jackson determine how to proceed, but the city isn’t expecting a determination on the RAW application until March. Previous Brownfield grant applications for funding to clean up the contamination soil haven’t been approved because toxicity levels haven’t scored high enough.

Some community members were concerned about the preservation of the historical site due to its mining past, maintaining public access to it and the possibility of selling any of the land. One resident, Shurley Denosky, spoke in support of the Rollingwood expansion, claiming that Jackson needs the tax base, growth, jobs and housing for low- and middle-income families. The council will leave the discussion open, pending the SNC grant decision and further study.

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