Despite vocal opposition, the Nevada County Planning Commission voted 3-2 to forward the controversial Rincon Del Rio project to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
Commissioners Bob Jensen and Suzanne Smith cast the two dissenting votes.
“I think the applicant gets more out of the development agreement than the county,” Jensen said.
“I just don’t see the benefit to the county,” she said.
“It is inconsistent with the general plan.”
Compliance with the Nevada County General Plan was at the center of the debate during the five-hour public hearing, which followed on the heels of an equally lengthy public hearing on the same project that took place in late January.
The project required an amendment to the general plan, which several members of the public said demonstrated the proposed development was not well suited for the rural area of south county.
“The general plan is a contract with the people that was thoughtfully designed to keep Nevada County rural,” said Karen Abbott, an opponent of the project.
The phrase was echoed by many people who participated in public comment.
Alison Barratt-Green, county counsel for Nevada County, said the general plan is less like a contract and more like a constitution.
“It’s a guiding document that allows for amendments,” she said. “Amendments are common and well accepted. It’s not a static document but is very alive.”
Commissioner Douglas Donesky, who voted in favor of the project, said the general plan is old and needs to evolve along with the changing demographics of the county.
Smith said the project represents five times the allowable density previously allowed in the rural area and does not represent a responsible amendment.
The amendment essentially allows for an entirely new zoning designation called Continuing Care Retirement Community, which incorporates independent living for senior citizens with on-site medical care.
The planning commission actually voted on 10 separate items, all of which were forwarded to the board of supervisors for further consideration, including a development agreement between the county and the developer, Carol Young.
The agreement includes a stipulation that requires Young to pay $250,000 to add additional equipment to the Lake of the Pines Wastewater Treatment Plant to accommodate increased demand.
The agreement also details how the secondary access road, which is slated to connect to Rodeo Flat Drive, will be managed by the developers or project operators.
The access road has been a flashpoint of contention, as the two access points, Rincon Way and Rodeo Flat, are privately maintained roads with public access easements.
Those who pay to maintain the roads are concerned about wear and tear on the road.
While much of the opposition to the project emanated from residents in proximity to the proposed development, not everyone was stridently against it.
“For this or any county to grow, it must bring in businesses and facilities of these kinds to sustain some sort of growth,” Jerry Lingren said.
However, Joyce Ash said most of the residents in extreme South County will shop in Placer County as it is closer.
Young said the economic benefits of the project will be visible in job creation as opposed to sales tax generation.
Rincon Del Rio is scheduled to be 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.
Plans dictate the development will 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.
The conditions of approval for the project explicitly stated the open space must preserved by the developer.
Planning Director Brian Foss said any attempts by the project operator to develop the open space would require another approval process, involving environmental impact studies and planning commission assent.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.