By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Developers of the Forest Meadows subdivision now have permission to build 313 new houses on a 276-acre site.
Calaveras County supervisors voted 5-0 on Monday to approve the development's environmental studies, a general plan amendment and a tentative subdivision map for the new lots.
After the meeting, project co-developer Monte Silver said construction at the subdivision east of Murphys could start late next spring.
"It took 10 years of work for this project," an elated Silver said after the meeting.
The project site is 276 acres on the south side of Sandalwood Drive and on the south side of the extension of Forest Meadows Drive.
Since the 1970s, 460 Forest Meadows homes have been built on 765 acres.
Silver said he now has all the permission he needs to begin developing the new lots.
Before construction starts, though, Silver said he wants to ask the Forest Meadows Homeowners Association to vote on whether homeowners of the new houses can be part of the association.
Association members must agree by a two-thirds vote to accept the new homeowners, Silver said. If the association refuses new members, Silver said he will start another association for them.
"We don't need to vote, but I want to do it," Silver said.
Calaveras County residents from Forest Meadows and elsewhere in the Ebbetts Pass corridor along with regional environmentalists have shown up to debate the merits and needs for additional housing at past meetings.
A worry shared by project opponents has been how 313 new houses would affect the winter mule deer range. According to the project's environmental impact report, the entire project is within the winter range, with 89 percent of the acreage considered "critical" to the range.
Silver responded by setting aside 168 acres for the deer. The EIR recommended setting aside 140 acres.