Nevada City’s planning commission unanimously granted a superfluous conditional use permit to Nevada County Thursday to house the district attorney’s offices at the unoccupied former Bank of America building on Commercial Street.
“It would be nice, certainly, if retail was there,” said Nevada City Planner Cindy Siegfried.
“It’s been a bank forever; it has never supported retail uses,” Siegfried later noted.
Even though the county is exempt from city ordinances, such as the one against housing offices on ground-floor space in the historic downtown district, the county sought an exemption as a goodwill gesture between the two government entities and to garner public comment on the prospect, Siegfried said.
In addition to the former Bank of America building at 201 Commercial St., the county is also pursuing the purchase of the office space it leases above Friar Tuck’s restaurant to house its probation department.
The county currently houses the DA’s office on the second floor of 100 Union St. — across the street from the Bank of America building.
“The county would like to continue to keep the DA’s office downtown,” said Steve Monaghan, the county’s chief information officer.
Also in the mix is property in Grass Valley’s Whispering Pines Business Park, a prospect that has Nevada City officials apprehensive.
“The loss of the courthouse and the supporting functions would be devastating to downtown,” said Councilman Robert Bergman, who recused himself from last week’s passage of a resolution supporting the retention of courthouse-related services in downtown Nevada City.
Around the same time the planning commission convened in Nevada City Thursday, the state’s Judicial Council voted to indefinitely postpone any renovation, update or replacement of the 148-year-old county courthouse, along with three other courthouse projects, amid continued funding raids.
Four years ago, the state floated the prospect of moving the courthouse out of downtown and into Seven Hills Business District at the vacated Nevada City Elementary School, said resident John Givens. Residents, preservationists and elected and court officials fought for years before finally settling on a proposal to renovate the current courthouse, located at 201 Church St.
“I think it is critical that we stay at or near the downtown because of the number of trips we make back and forth,” said District Attorney Cliff Newell.
If the DA and probation offices were not downtown, Bergman said it would be one more reason for the state to move the courthouse elsewhere.
“(A)nd lord knows when it is going to be,” Bergman said at Thursday’s commission meeting, “once funding is available.”
The county also agreed to meet with the city’s signage standards and provide a parking plan as a courtesy.
The Bank of America building was built in 1969 for the bank, which occupied it until March 2012, and it has since sat vacant.
“The use has been effectively administrative. I don’t see it as a big change,” said Commissioner Dan Thiem.
“The long-term benefit is highly in our favor.”
Final approval of the former Bank of America building purchase will require approval from the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
County officials indicate that the two purchases would save the county as much as $200,000 annually.
“I’ve been wondering for a while what that building would become,” said Commissioner Brad Croul. “But a DA’s office seems like a good fit for it.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call (530) 477-4236.