Foothill city begins to take shape

By Reggie Ellis

The answer to the billion-dollar question is between 9,000 and 9,500.

The question: How many homes are the J.G. Boswell Co. planning to build in Yokohl Valley.

For the first time, Bill Ostrem, president and CEO of Yokohl Ranch Company, talked about the number of homes the development subsidiary of J.G. Boswell Co. is planning to build in its master planned community in the foothills east of Exeter during a bus tour of the foothills hosted by the Sequoia Riverlands Trust as part of a two-day meeting by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

The number of homes translates to between 23,000 and 25,000 people, according to U.S. Census Bureau's average household size in 2000. Boswell's first development project was through a partnership with developer Del Webb. Built in the 1960s, Sun City, Ariz. has about 27,000 homes with a population of just over 38,000.

Boswell Co.'s most recent development is EastLake in Chula Vista, Calif. just south of San Diego. At completion, EastLake will offer have about 9,500 homes and a population of about 26,000. Ostrem said on average, the company the project would build 400-500 homes per year for 25-30 years from the time the Yokohl Ranch project would begin. While Boswell Co. would oversee the planning of the project, developers would be hired to build the residential and commercial uses.

Like both of those developments, Ostrem said the community would be based on the &#8220active adult lifestyle” that Del Webb had in mind. As the tour bus wound through Boswell's 36,000 acres along both sides of Yokohl Valley Drive, Ostrem pointed out where the company plans to put two golf courses, homes and a resort/country club. He also pointed out that a portion of the road would be a tree-lined main street with service commercial businesses, such as a coffee shop, dentist office or grocer.

Ostrem said most of the developments would take place in fairly flat areas to reduce the amount of landleveling required for the project, leaving the hilltops and slopes for continued cattle grazing. Ostrem said about 60% of the 36,000 acres will remain a functioning cattle ranch. Boswell's Yokohl Valley Cattle Company has been cattle ranching on the land since the 1960s.

When the bus stopped at the ranch house near the beginning of the Boswell property for cookies and punch, Ostrem said the company would be filing its formal application for the Yokohl Ranch Plan with the county in the next three months. The application will include a General Plan and Foothill Growth Management Plan amendment, a new zoning and zone change request for planned communities, master development plan, and plans for the first phase and the preliminary environmental report. A &#8220Planned Community Zone” would establish a tiered planning framework with orderly preplanning, long-term planning and flexibility for changes over the course of the project.

After the formal application is filed, county staff will prepare an environmental impact report, which will be distributed for public comments. Staff will then present the report to the Tulare County Planning Commission, which will hold public hearings on the report and the project. If approved by the Planning Commission, the project then goes to the Board of Supervisors for a final approval.

Ostrem said the process should take three to five years. The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved The Yokohl Ranch Plan General Plan Amendment Initiation on Feb. 7.

For more information on the master planned community, visit www.YokohlRanch.com.

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