Nevada City Planning Commission approves housing development | TheUnion.com

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Nevada City Planning Commission approves housing development

The Nevada City Planning Commission discussed a proposed 71-unit housing development project called The Grove at its Thursday meeting, and ultimately decided to approve and recommend the tentative map design to city council.

The Grove would encompass a 12.97-acre site at 500 Providence Mine Road. The project, if approved, could help mitigate Nevada City's housing shortage issue because it would increase the city's housing stock by 5 percent.

More than a dozen community members spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, many expressing concerns that the project is not doing enough to address the need for local affordable housing.

The developers, from Nevada City Tech Center LLC, disagreed.

"We've gone above and beyond the city's requirements," said Robert Upton, who is leading the development plan.

He said The Grove would be "affordable by design," because it clusters a large number of residences onto a relatively small plot of land, and incorporates smaller, secondary dwelling units on 12 of the lots. It also proposes many environmentally-friendly design elements, which Upton said would result in low energy bills for residents.

A Nevada City ordinance requires all new housing developments to designate 30 percent of homes on a site for affordable housing. The ordinance requires those designated houses to be less than 1,500 square feet, with garage space of 500 square feet or less.

Any new subdivisions with more than two proposed homes also require 20 percent of those homes to have a second dwelling unit on the property between 350 and 640 square feet.

In 2014, The Grove's developers asked the city council to waive those restrictions in favor of their "affordability by design" proposal.

"The council agreed with us that the income restriction model was broken," said Upton in an email. "We have been pursuing the project since then on that basis."

Representatives from Tenants of Nevada County said at the meeting that the developers aren't addressing the "real and immediate needs of our community."

"We don't want affordability to be just a word," said Cody Curtis, a member of Tenants of Nevada County. "We want the cost of units to reflect our wages here, not what the state considers affordable."

Curtis proposed a limited equity cooperative housing option for the development site, where tenants would buy into a share of the entire property, and lease their home rather than own it. He said it's a tested and proven system that could work well for The Grove.

Upton recommended that Curtis look elsewhere in the city to develop that plan, which he thought was a good idea, but he said it was too late to incorporate that into the Grove's plan, which has been in the works since 2010.

The developers of The Grove said they chose the site because it provides many benefits for potential residents, including walkability to local shops, schools, and jobs.

Supporters said at the meeting that it would be a great opportunity to attract businesses to the area, which are currently deterred by a lack of housing for employees.

The project, said the commission, isn't designed to solve the city's issue of a lack of affordable housing for those with low incomes.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4231.