Impacts of Grass Valley Bear River Mill site development (VIDEO) |

Impacts of Grass Valley Bear River Mill site development (VIDEO)

Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer

In Grass Valley's quest to annex and develop the 421 acres along its southern border that includes the former Bear River Mill site, the future of the 121-acre Berriman Ranch will play a pivotal part, said local planning officials.

Much of the site's significance is tied in with sewers, said Tom Last, Grass Valley's planning director.

While the city eyes the Bear River Mill site as part of an effort to develop that 140 acres between Highway 49 and La Barr Meadows Road for industrial purposes, running city sewers out there now, only to later add more lines toward Berriman Ranch, would be more costly than doing both at the same time.

"That is why staff has pushed for that alternative to be looked at," Last said, speaking of the Grass Valley City Council's March 12 unanimous decision to allocated $100,000 to initiate the annexation.

Part of that decision was to not only annexation of the 140-acre former Bear River Mill site on the east side of Highway 49 but also property on the west side, where the 121-acre Berriman Ranch project site is currently located in Nevada County territory off Piccadilly Lane, just south of McKnight Way. 

At the tail end of 2010, Grass Valley's city council approved the annexation and development of 30 new homes on 10 acres of the site. The development would extend Piccadilly Lane as a site for new residences, and connect in an emergency-access-only road out to Taylorville Road.

Recommended Stories For You

After the first phase of the project, the initial proposal called for up to 91 more residences to be developed of the rest of the 111 acres to be developed after 2016, when the city was originally slated to annex the area. While first leg of the project remains 30 units that are 1,200 to 1,500 square-foot houses on 10 acres, Dale Creighton, president of applicant SCO Planning and Engineering, does not expect the project to enter the second phase before 2016.

If all goes according to plan, Last estimated the process to zone and annex the whole site could take slightly longer than a year, after which SCO could move forward.

"We're optimistic that something could happen in the next year in terms of annexation," Creighton said.

City engineers argued that running sewer lines out to Bear River Mill, only to add more lines out to Berriman later would require building multiple lift stations to pump water back uphill. Whereas doing it all at once would only require one lift station implementation and allow gravity to do the rest, Last said.

In choosing to annex all 421 acres south of town, instead of only the land on east side of the highway, the council backed its engineer's recommendation.

However another factor in the area's future are the residents of the Carriage House and Gazabo residential communities, neighbors of the Berriman Ranch site. When development of the site played out in government meetings in 2007 through early January 2011, those neighbors expressed concerns over traffic the development might attract.

An April 17 community meeting will be held at Grass Valley City Hall to address annex concerns, including those affected by the lands on the east side of the highway.

"I had to let you know that at this moment, I can't really say that I am in favor of this because I have a lot of concerns," Orson Hansen, owner of Hansen Bros. Enterprises, told the council at its March 12 meeting.

Hansen, whose business is located within the proposed annexation at 11727 La Barr Meadows Road, was speaking about zoning change implications of the annex, which he feared would allow residences around his business. His concern, he said, was they would later complain about his company's late-night operations.

"I am concerned about the 'Airport Syndrome,' I call it. Where they have been there for more than 50 years and then a whole bunch of homes and other businesses all of a sudden start appearing and people start complaining about planes being noisy," Hansen said in March.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Hansen declined further comment.

Part of the city's annexation and zoning is aimed at creating industrial space for budding companies to expand — something on short supply in Grass Valley, said Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout at the March meeting.

"The reality is our small companies start out as small manufacturing operations. When they want to expand, there is no place and they are leaving the community," Swarthout said. "If our true goal is economic development and job creation, we need to be proactive."

The upcoming community meeting could provide input on the size of future zoning in the annex areas, Last said.

"My goal is to have council give us direction for a preferred land use by the end of this month," Last said.

As zoning could impact the size of future development, that in turn could impact the feasibility of sewer lines, Last noted.

"Depending on the density of the development, that is how we determine if it is cost effective to bring sewers over there," Swarthout told The Union Wednesday.

The owners of Berriman Ranch are happy to cooperate in the city's efforts to look at planning and land use activities for the property, Creighton said.

"This will be an evolving process," Last said.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call (530) 477-4236.

Go back to article