Loma Rica Ranch in the zone | TheUnion.com

Loma Rica Ranch in the zone

Trina Kleist
Staff Writer

Development of Loma Rica Ranch will move forward under a settlement agreement but with fewer houses in one key area.

Tonight, Grass Valley leaders are expected to take an action that will allow that to happen: They will decide whether to accept findings leading to the override of another agency’s zoning document dealing with safety zones around the Nevada County Airport, next door to the ranch on a hill a couple miles east of downtown Grass Valley.

The override is also part of a process that could lead to greater cooperation between the two jurisdictions.

Council members will determine whether there is an inconsistency between the airport’s new safety zoning document and the plan for Loma Rica Ranch – the override part of the deal.

The Airport Land Use Commission approved the airport’s compatibility plan – basically a zoning document to ensure safety – in September 2011. That came despite an outcry by nearby property owners and developers who said they were unaware the plan was coming down the pike.

The new compatibility plan greatly expanded safety zones designed to protect the airport from encroaching development and the noise complaints that typically follow and designed to protect people in those developments from having an airplane crash on top of them.

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Grass Valley, the Loma Rica Ranch developer and eight property owners sued in Nevada County Superior Court to overturn the new airport land use compatibility plan.

A key component of the agreement settling that lawsuit centers on building around MacBoyle Lake, part of which lies beneath the highest-level safety zone.

Developer Steve Garrett of Castle Companies agreed to lower the number of houses he would build there, officials said.

The reduction will “address the (Airport Land Use Commission’s) noise and safety concerns,” city officials said in a prepared statement.

The settlement also resolves claims brought by the eight property owners and developers participating in the lawsuit.

“Another aspect of the settlement will provide for cooperation among the city, Loma Rica Ranch LLC and the (Airport Land Use Commission) by which the city will state its reasons for deviating from housing density standards on sites near airports, allow (the commission) and the (California) Division of Aeronautics to comment on those reasons and conduct a public hearing to allow public input,” officials said.

A public hearing would be planned for Sept. 11, with a City Council override on the airport land use compatibility plan to follow, city Community Development Director Tom Last said.

Building at Loma Rica Ranch theoretically could start some months later, after project documents are submitted to the city, reviewed and approved, Last said.

“We’d review it like any other project,” Last said.

“We are relieved to have this dispute behind us,” Mayor Janet Arbuckle said in a prepared statement about the settlement. “The community has worked long and hard to move forward with the Loma Rica Ranch project and other efforts to develop our economy, provide jobs and maintain the character of our small, historic town.”

Last week, Nevada County’s Local Area Formation Commission approved Grass Valley’s application to annex the property, another step toward potential groundbreaking.

One leading developer, Keoni Allen of Sierra Foothills Construction, estimated $500 million could flow into the area over the next two decades in direct spending as the project is built out. Developer Garrett has agreed to include local contractors in the bidding process.


To contact Senior Staff Writer Trina Kleist, email tkleist@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4230

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