Groveland Community Services District is requesting that Tuolumne County officials evaluate impacts on fire and emergency services as part of the review process for a proposed large-scale resort near Yosemite National Park.
The GCSD Board of Directors met Tuesday and approved district staff to engage in the development review process for the proposed Terra Vi Lodge that would be located on a 64-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Highway 120 and Sawmill Mountain Road, about 17 miles east of Groveland.
“Basically, we’ll be meeting with the county and helping them understand what we need to see in the environmental document to be able to determine what the impacts would be and what actions need to be taken to offset any impacts if the project goes forward,” said District General Manager Pete Kampa.
One of the concerns is that GCSD’s fire department would respond to emergencies at the proposed resort through a countywide mutual aid agreement, despite being far outside of the district’s boundaries.
Cal Fire has manned and operated the GCSD fire station since 2013 under a cooperative agreement with the district and county.
Another concern is how the resort would affect other emergency services, such as ambulance, which is funded through a $90 annual property tax that was renewed by Groveland voters in the June primary election.
“There’s just a lot of implications,” Kampa said. “The last thing we want is for the project to just proceed, and it puts a strain on the department and causes our resources to be stretched beyond a normal safe scenario.”
Some Groveland residents were caught by surprise when they heard news about the proposed resort late last month.
The county was accepting comments on the proposal through Dec. 28 as part of the early stages of determining the level of environmental review that will be required under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Kampa said he believed some of the initial uproar in the community over the project stemmed from some confusion about how far along the proposal was in the process.
“There was a lot of rumors that they were getting ready to build and, in reality, they are quite a ways off,” he said.
According to public documents, the resort would include a three-story lodge with 140 guestrooms, 25 cabins with 100 guestrooms, a public market, two-story event center, and helicopter landing pad.
The project applicants are listed as Hardin Flat, LLC, and the Hansji Corp., an Anaheim-based development firm that has done multimillion dollar projects in downtown Phoenix and San Diego.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a revised organizational chart that changes some of the classifications of district employees.
Kampa said the purpose of the revisions was to make sure the classifications for the existing positions reflect the work that’s being done by those employees.
The proposed revisions changes the titles of the office manager/board secretary to administrative services manager, finance clerk to accountant, office clerk to administrative services technician, operations and maintenance manager to operations manager, and would re-establish an operations supervisor position.
Eight ratepayers in the district signed a letter of opposition to the changes until the district knows the potential financial impacts, especially given recently approved sewer rate increases.
“Public perception will be that the District is spending money it doesn’t have that the sewer rate increase was a ploy to compensate employees with increased salaries and the creation of new positions,” the letter stated.
Kampa said a reduction in staffing since 2009 has required some employees to take on duties that aren’t part of the current classification or titles, which could create trouble retaining them or attracting qualified applicants if they have to be replaced.
The district’s staffing has been reduced from 33 full-time employees in 2009 to 16 currently, including the contract with Cal Fire. The operations and maintenance department has been reduced from 16 to 12 full-time employees, while the administrative staff has been reduced from six to four.
In addition, Kampa said the district has also experienced a lot of turnover since 2009. He said only four existing employees have worked there for more than five years, with most having less than two years on the job.
“It’s a proactive measure to be prepared for the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to attract people to go to Groveland.”