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Future of traffic rule uncertain

For the past two years, projects in Grass Valley have been stalled, tweaked, and even halted – all in the name of traffic and a particular rule that determines if, when, and where a new business can be located.

“I don’t think it has worked very well. It has taken the discussion about development and made it a discussion about traffic. We lost sight of the community and the buildings and spent all the time talking about traffic,” said Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout at a special meeting of the City Council Wednesday night that focused on traffic issues in the city.

The rule is known as the “two-second rule.” Adopted in 2002 as a way to measure the impact of a development on its surrounding area, it is based on the premise that if a project increases traffic by two seconds at an intersection that has two stop signs, or decreases operating capacity by 2 percent if there are traffic signals, the impact is too much.

It caused a headache for business owner Jim Moule last summer when he proposed to move his Moule Paint and Glass to a new building. He was told that his new building would avoid violating the two-second rule only if he left the old site empty.

Now the future of the rule is uncertain.

Councilman Dean Williams said he wants to make it into an even more strict “one-second rule.” This would essentially create a moratorium on building anything at all in Grass Valley, Swarthout noted.

Councilwoman Patti Ingram said she thinks it just needs better criteria to back it up.

“The problem with the threshold is that it didn’t have anything else to go with it, but now we have the (list of improvement priorities), I am not interested in lessening it,” she said.

“One of the reasons we put it in in 2002 was because the old way wasn’t working, either. I think it is a good rule. It may not be optimum, but it just needs to be adjusted,” said Mayor Gerard Tassone, saying he did not have enough information to make a final decision Wednesday night.

The council members remained undecided on what to do with the rule, ultimately voting to talk about it later after they have more information about what type of impacts could come from various decisions – such as reducing it, increasing it, or eliminating it altogether.

They did, however, approve a list of priorities for improving traffic, as well as a task force made up of members of the public, the development community, and two council members – Mark Johnson and Patti Ingram.