The five-person Nevada County Planning Commission voiced a litany of concerns relating to a proposed retirement community development slated for south county, while supporters of the project greatly outnumbered the opponents at a public hearing Thursday.
Rincon del Rio is a proposed Continuing Care Retirement Community Project located one-half mile east of Highway 49, just south of the Lake of the Pines community.
The proposal calls for the development of a 215-acre site that encompasses four separate parcels near the Bear River that are currently undeveloped. The project as currently configured will provide 345 attached and detached housing units.
The development would be clustered on a 40-acre envelope located on the western half of the site with the remaining 170 acres to remain as open space with potential recreational options.
A large contingent of supporters showed up at the Rood Center to express — sometimes emotionally — the need for senior housing where elderly people can access health care and avert the loneliness, depression and sadness that can accompany the aging process.
“Sooner or later that parcel will be developed,” said resident Otto Haueisen. “By the time that happens some of you who are opposing this project will want to live there.”
Opponents to the project, most of whom live in proximity to the project, praised the design of the development and recognized the need for senior housing in Nevada County but said the project was incompatible with the area due to the lack of emergency access roads and the potential for wildfire.
Business owners talked about the potential for south county to flourish as a result of the project, with Karen Adams, the vice president of Gerontological Services, saying nearly $4.6 million in construction money alone could be generated throughout the 20-year construction plan.
However, Karen Abbott, who opposes the project, said with the nearest hospital being Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital (about 7 miles away) and the nearest shopping options being located in Auburn that the county is likely to lose enormous amounts of sales tax by placing the project away from the core of Nevada City and Grass Valley.
Abbott was not the only one to voice concerns, as each of the five planning commission members did the same with Suzanne Smith, a retired senior planner, talking the most.
Smith said the Final Environment Impact Report failed to account for the consequence of installing a large sewer pipeline along Rodeo Flat Road. She also questioned the efficacy of the Development Agreement between the county and the developer, Young Enterprises LLC. The document states the project will be built in eight phases that will span about 20 years.
Each phase of the project must reach 70 percent occupancy before the next phase can be completed, according to the agreement. The initial phases will witness most of the residential buildings constructed with buildings that will provide much of the medical services not scheduled for construction until 15 years into the project.
Smith questioned the wisdom of building a retirement community without the advertised services available until much later.
Dale Creighton, principal at SCO Planning, the lead planner for the project, explained that initially, the community will be advertised to younger retirees willing to grow with the project.
The issue of public trails also came to the forefront of the discussion with members of the public advocating for an easement through the project that would one day afford connection to a trail system along the Bear River. Creighton said security and restricted access were two crucial components of the project and said the project proponent would not be in favor of allowing unrestricted access to the project.
Commissioner Douglas Donesky asked staff to review the possibility of allowing a public easement in between the project and the river, citing the importance of public trails to the planning commission. Finally, Commissioner Bob Jensen took issue with the fact that skilled nurses would not be on site, saying the additional people who needed to be called to the site for relevant situations skewed the traffic study.
“I was told that people could live out the rest of their life, but now it seems they can live out the rest of their life until they need skilled nursing,” Jensen said. “I feel like I’ve been misled.”
The planning commission will meet again at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 14 to further discuss the project and get staff input on the many concerns raised during the meeting.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
“Sooner or later that parcel will be developed. By the time that happens some of you who are opposing this project will want to live there.”
— Otto Haueisen