Our View: Time for a real community conversation on where we’re headed in Nevada County
March 3, 2014
News of a proposed shopping center to be constructed at the Dorsey Drive Interchange brought forth plenty of passion this week, as the community suddenly found itself revisiting an old issue once summed up on bumper stickers spotted all about western Nevada County:
"Don't Roseville Grass Valley."
Of course, the Grass Valley Development Review Committee staff report opened the door for such a revival by referring to "Fountains in Roseville" in describing the kind of pedestrian environment desired in the design analysis of the 215,250-square-foot shopping center. But the early opposition would have likely gone there, regardless, considering how quickly they deemed the project the result of a shell game city officials had played in either being "evasive" in the process or "duping" the community into believing the Dorsey Drive Interchange project was about anything other than development opportunities.
We find such rhetoric disappointing in that it is both unnecessary and counterproductive to the kind of discussion this issue warrants and this community deserves. There are plenty appropriate points to be made and valid questions to be posed by those who oppose such a development, without casting such aspersions on the motives of the people involved. In short, many people opposed to such a development are seeking to protect the very things we most enjoy about living here, such as the natural beauty of our environment, the vibrancy of our historic downtowns and the importance of supporting local businesses that are owned and operated by members of the community.
Believe it or not, many of our local officials — even those who helped make the Dorsey Drive Interchange a reality after several decades of setbacks — also enjoy those same aspects of life in western Nevada County. But they are also charged with providing services our community members seek in a slow-recovering economy while we residents are reportedly spending more than $200 million annually "down the hill" or increasingly doing more of our shopping online, with the resulting sales tax revenue ending up in coffers outside our community.
Of course, then there are also the rights of the property owner, who said his proposal for a shopping center seeks to meet many of the desires outlined by Grass Valley residents in a retail shopping survey the city conducted. Whether such a project could become a "destination" by attracting the kind of retailers residents identified in the survey — such as Target, Kohl's and Ross — remains to be seen.
And so much more remains to be seen and heard in discussion surrounding the proposal. What about the amount of commercial space already vacant within our community and why aren't retailers locating there? What opportunities are there for "in-fill" projects, such as the proposal for subdividing the property at the former Meeks Hardware and Lumber site (which was also before Grass Valley's Development Review Committee this week)? Although there are certainly new jobs projected with the preliminary site plan calling for 12 retail buildings, four restaurants and a movie theater, how many of those would be anything other than low-paying?
Then there's the very valid question of whether the size and scope of the large shopping center would result in such increased traffic that any improved access to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Sierra College — the most often repeated reason for building the interchange — would actually be negated.
This week's meeting of Grass Valley's DRC was the first step in what has regularly been a long process with proposed developments of all scopes and sizes in our community, whether special development area projects that never came to light or the construction of another pharmacy built in the Brunswick Basin. There will be ample time to let your voice be heard at various stages of the process.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of this week's back and forth on the proposal is the need for a real discussion on the larger issue of what we want here in western county and where we are headed. That's the kind of conversation this community deserves.
And it's not one that will fit into a 30-second sound bite or a four-word bumper sticker — even in an election year.
Our View represents the opinions of The Union Editorial Board, which is comprised of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.