Nevada County planners got the green light Tuesday to work on potential rezoning in the Soda Springs area of Donner Summit to create options for new businesses, a community center and visitor traffic in the off-season.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Pat Malberg, head of the Donner Summit Area Association, after the approval by the Nevada County board of supervisors. “This is really a coup; it’s great.”
Supervisors unanimously chose the update to the Soda Springs area plan from a list of three options on the agenda Tuesday because it was the most feasible and least expensive compared to the other two — Penn Valley and Higgins Corner.
Also, residents in the Soda Springs area have already organized into MACs, or municipal advisory committees — a process that supervisors said they want to institute in the other parts of the county.
“Soda Springs is a priority,” said Supervisor Vice Chair Ed Scofield. “But I’m also very concerned about Higgins Corner and Penn Valley.”
Supervisor Richard Anderson, whose district includes the Soda Springs area, said the community planning there has “languished” since the opening of Interstate 80.
“It’s been clear for quite awhile that we now need to change the sort of projects that can be built there,” he said.
Supervisor Hank Weston said he normally “likes to fight hard for my district, but in this case, it’s very important that the Soda Springs area gets done.”
Currently Soda Springs is zoned “highway commercial,” which allows for restaurants and gas stations but not other retail businesses, such as real estate offices, shops or grocery stores, Malberg said.
“We really want to get people off of I-80 and have them explore the Old Highway 40 area,” Malberg said later. “We’d love to have a community center.”
Malberg said the local municipal advisory committees in her area have been active since at least 2004, when an economic study was done and when the Donner Summit Area Association was formed.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the traffic and resolving problems there,” she said. “What we need now is planning for the Old Highway 40 corridor.”
According to Nevada County planning staff member Kim Hunter, the update at Soda Springs will take about 18 to 24 months and involve the work of a half-time senior planner and a quarter-time planner.
Unlike the other two plan updates, all the work will be done in-house, and outside consultants will not be necessary, she said.
Both the Higgins Corner and Penn Valley plan updates are expected to take longer and involve outside consultants, Hunter said.
“I find that all of them are pretty compelling,” said Supervisor Terry Lamphier of the three project areas.
Supervisor Nate Beason said Higgins Corner was the area “that has changed the most.”
A new development, Rincon Del Rio, is proposed for the Higgins Corner area of South County.
Ed James of Penn Valley told supervisors that he agreed it would be a good idea to combine a review of the business park zoning with an update to the community plan.
“What’s down there doesn’t seem to fit,” James said of Penn Valley. “I also think the MAC support would be a good way to get local folks involved.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.