Ananda Village’s master faces planning commission hearing | TheUnion.com

Ananda Village’s master faces planning commission hearing

For nearly a half century, Ananda Village has been growing slowly.

The village, a cooperative spiritual community outside of Nevada City, is looking to grow even more over the next 25 years.

And the process will continue to be slow.

Ananda held an open house on Monday, giving residents and neighbors a look at their 25-year master plan, which will go before a Nevada County Planning Commission hearing at 1:30 p.m. on April 27. If approved, the next step is the Nevada County Board of Supervisors approval.

The plan gives Ananda 25 years to bring the village to full residential buildout as allowed in the 1995 Nevada County General Plan.

"This master plan allows us to take the next step," Village Manager Peter Goering said. "The last time we updated the master plan was 1990. We've been building out since then and we're about at the end of it."

The village houses about 200 adults and children spread out in 87 homes over 706 acres near the Yuba River.

The master plan includes a maximum of 100 more residential units, 60,000 square feet of non-residential development — mostly at the Expanding Light Retreat — an addition to the Rajarshi Park office and light industrial zone, more Living Wisdom School buildings, further development of the Village Center commercial area and coordinated infrastructure.

The master plan does not include acquiring more land.

"It took 47 years to get this far," said Alex Forrester, a planner who lives near the village and has been a member since 2000. "That's slow. That's like two or three units a year, and we have 100 to go."

It's a biggest-case scenario; just because there are 100 new homes included in the plan, that doesn't mean 100 new homes will be built.

"That's the limit established by the general plan," Goering said. "We couldn't go beyond that. In terms of planning, good planning says look at the maximum impact, so that's what we did. If we don't get there, it's OK."

Developers have spent years putting this plan together. While Goering believes it's comprehensive and thorough, he doesn't believe approval is a slam-dunk.

"On a project this big it's never a formality," Goering said. "We've worked really hard to make sure we've addressed all concerns. We have stacks of studies. We've gone above and beyond. We applied for this two years ago, and we worked on it a lot before that."

A UNIQUE COMMUNITY

Ananda Village was founded in 1969 by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, whose teachings form the foundation of the village.

The nonprofit religious organization is not an income-sharing community, but the land is developed cooperatively.

"We're a pretty diverse group, except we all follow these practices of meditation," Goering said.

Some residents have grown up there. Some have left. Some have left and come back.

Peter Kretzmann's parents moved to Ananda in 1978 and had Peter in 1984. He grew up there with two siblings and attended the village school through eighth grade. He then went outside the community for his education, attending charter schools before finishing high school at Nevada Union. He attended college in the Sacramento area.

"I could go anywhere I wanted to go and do anything I wanted to do, and I realized that I wanted something that really had meaning and would make a difference in the world. I saw what was going on here growing up and I have yet to see a place that has the kind of beauty, harmony and cooperation."

The village includes houses, a K-12 school, a preschool, businesses, and a commercial area.

The bulk of the village has been developed and built by Ananda members.

"We're the ones who live here," Goering said. "We plan the development, we build the development. … We've done some subcontracting, but by and large all the houses have been built by contractors who lived in the community at the time. It's pretty unique."

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.