Camp Augusta, a historic 80-acre wilderness education and summer camp facility near Lake Vera, was granted its first Nevada County use permit Thursday.
“We’re delighted we can move forward,” said Camp Augusta board member John Shaw after the unanimous decision by the Nevada County Planning Commission.
The original camp was built in the 1930s, before the county had code requirements for use permits. It had been operating as legal nonconforming use, but when camp leaders applied for an upgrade and expansion to an existing building, it triggered the need for a use permit for the entire site.
At Thursday’s public hearing, commission members decided to raise the camper occupancy limits from the existing 90 campers to 100 and the maximum occupancy for staff members from 45 staffers to 50 to allow the camp more opportunity for increased income in the future.
The compromise increase came after Commission Chair Laura Duncan expressed concern that the camp eventually would need to have more visitors to stay solvent.
She said she wanted to see it stay in operation and not run into financial problems down the road.
“In Nevada County, we have a lot of great historical uses that, over time, are not able to maintain their economic viability, and may later get chopped into housing (developments),” Duncan said. “Maybe we can help them maintain their economic viability beyond the current business model.”
Other commission members agreed. However, it took an extended discussion to arrive at an appropriate number that would both help the camp improve their future tuition income, but not trigger the need for added utilities or extended extra studies, analysis and review.
County zoning at the site would allow up to 320 occupants, but the camp’s resources and utilities would not accommodate even close to that amount, said camp organizer Justin Mosier.
“We’d have to do more review of the infrastructure, particularly the leach field (for the septic system),” Mosier said.
“We’re already adding one leach field for the (expanded) kitchen.”
Mosier and Shaw said the camp had limited funds and could not afford to pay for more studies or more facilities.
Nevada County Principal Planner Tyler Barrington and Planning Director Brian Foss said they were comfortable that the compromise increase number proposed by commission member R. Douglas Donesky could be accommodated within the use permit granted Thursday.
In addition to the increased occupancy, the use permit approved Thursday includes permission to replace the existing 1,840-square-foot kitchen and office structure with a 3,183-square-foot building in the same location.
The proposal also includes regrading the existing driveway for better access and identifying locations for a future director’s cabin and maintenance building.
Commission members also voted unanimously in favor of the mitigated negative declaration of environmental impact as recommended by Nevada County Assistant Planner Joseph Scarbrough.
The mitigated negative declaration means that even though the proposal “could have a significant effect on the environment, there will not be a significant effect in this case because revisions in the project have been made by or agreed to by the project proponent,” Scarbrough says in the staff report.
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.