Nevada County wants more discernment from California officials
May 14, 2013
The Nevada County Board of Supervisors said housing laws created and implemented by the state of California are too broad and do more harm than good to rural counties.
The county is spending $300,000 to make changes to its zoning to accommodate rules enacted by the legislature and administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
The county is mandated to identify vacant land capable of hosting a total of 764 high-density units (463 of which are dedicated to low-income housing), and must alter the zoning on vacant lands to accommodate a minimum of 16 units per acre.
The problem for county officials is the policy runs contrary to the Nevada County General Plan, which attempts to minimize high-density development in the unincorporated areas as a means of preserving the rural character of the county.
Supervisor Nate Beason said many of the areas are unsuitable for high-density development and the lack of available infrastructure renders the so-called affordable housing less affordable, as residents would potentially be burdened with costly hook-up fees to sewer and water centers.
Supervisor Richard Anderson said high-density development belongs in city centers — and to allow high-density development in outlying areas creates sprawl.
"To upzone lands out of the urban core is counter-intuitive," Anderson said.
Supervisor Hank Weston said the state's entire approach is too uncoordinated, without a comprehensive approach to providing solutions to rural jurisdictions.
The lack of focus means certain stakeholder groups pushing for affordable housing unwittingly abet more sprawl, which impacts greenhouse gases, clean air and clean water, he said.
"It is frustrating for a rural county to be forced to meet all these different requirements," Weston said.
Glen Campora with the state housing department listened patiently to the frustrations of the county officials and ultimately agreed that the concerns of the county were legitimate.
However, he said he was in the "unenviable position" of implementing and ensuring various jurisdictions were in compliance with state law.
"We have been able to offer technical assistance to a number of jurisdictions, including rural counties, in getting them across the goal line so their housing element meets state law," Campora said.
He vowed to offer some members of his staff to meet with county planning department employees to be able to find "creative ways" to meet the law without unduly compromising zoning regulations meant to preserve the rural aesthetic of the county.
"We would like to (collaborate) sooner rather than later, as we are about $100,000 into the $300,000 rezone project," Planning Director Brian Foss said.
The board of supervisors concluded the meeting by adopting the 2014-19 Regional Housing Need Plan, which ensures the county will rezone vacant land capable of housing about 760 unit of affordable housing.
The board also directed county staff to work with state officials in the interest of finding alternative solutions.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4239.