Planner: Boardwalk review not as costly as feared
October 22, 2013
The expected cost to officially review the environmental impacts of Nevada City's Commercial Street Boardwalk will be much less that some folks initially feared, according to the town's lead planner.
"We've been monitoring for two years, and if you ask, 'What are the (physical) impacts?' There really aren't any that come to mind," said City Planner Cindy Siegfried.
Most construction projects must undergo a review to determine any impacts they may have on the environment. As a technically temporary structure, the boardwalk has avoided such scrutiny for two years.
Around December, the city expects to review the boardwalk. Some members of the town's council had feared the cost of that process could be as much as $5,000 or $20,000, which raised concerns about being able to afford the study. But Siegfried said the environmental review would likely only cost $2,200 at most and could cost nothing at all.
Constructed in August 2011 by the Nevada County Sustainability Team and volunteers, the boardwalk is a 50-by-8-foot, wood-planked, deck-like platform built over three street parking spaces to create public space, replete with benches, tables, umbrellas, planter boxes and bicycle parking stations.
After more than two years of gradual improvements, visitors of the boardwalk may not realize that the structure is officially considered a temporary structure subject to annual Nevada City Council approval. After its initial one-year trial period, the boardwalk was granted a one-year extension in November 2012.
Nevada City will either seek a negative impact declaration, a mitigated negative declaration or even seek an overall exemption from environmental review, Siegfried said.
"We've talked about a notice of exemption if it can be clearly be seen that there are no impacts at all," she said. "We are real close to that. There really are no impacts that I am seeing."
Even if the city has to go through the process of a negative or mitigated negative environmental review, the city would seek a waver from the $2,000 filing fee that is allocated to the California Department of Fish and Game. Such a waver was recently granted to Gary Tintle and Ken Baker's development of the Alpha Building, specifically to add a new entrance to the building through Callanan Park, Siegfried said.
During the environmental review, everything from traffic impacts to sidewalk use is considered.
"We'll probably go through the process. Whether you like it or not is not what is considered. We have to review it based on facts," Siegfried said.
Before former Nevada City Police Department Chief Jim Wickham resigned in late September, he wrote a report on the boardwalk's impact from a law enforcement perspective. Wickham recommended that the boardwalk have more lighting at night, that traffic by the structure be reduced to a one-way street, that the area be constantly maintained through private funding and that the police department's foot patrol officer position be retained to ensure vigilance of the public space.
"You have to have that position," Wickham told The Union. "You pull that position, and that is the kind of area that will fall to undesirables."
Siegfried also mentioned a potential for conditions being tacked onto the boardwalk to ensure the Sustainability Team continues to operate and maintain the public space.
After going through a California Environmental Quality Act checklist, a draft environmental review would be subject to the scrutiny of a Nevada City Planning Commission advisory committee, the planning commission itself and finally the city council. The public would be allowed to comment on the boardwalk at any step along the way.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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