Rincon del Rio scrutiny | TheUnion.com

Rincon del Rio scrutiny

Other Voices
Margaret Mason

I have been slow to reach certainty that I oppose the Rincon del Rio development project currently seeking approval by the Nevada County Planning Commission.

At one time I had felt that this project might compare favorably to other developments that could occur on the site. However, I have been misled and contend that missing, misleading and false information have contaminated the very approval process of this project.

The contamination can be traced back through the past four or so years and new, fresh examples continue to show up. Individual bits have interlaced with other bits and replicated. Parties have formed opinions and influenced other parties. What comes to my mind is an image of a creeping infection.

Still missing is information on the cost to live at Rincon del Rio, the entrance fee, the monthly rent, the "a la carte" medical services and any other services. How can county officials decide that this project could significantly address needs of Nevada County's seniors when they don't even know the percentage of our seniors that could actually afford to live there? Consequently, the question of project viability becomes more difficult.

I have been misled and contend that missing, misleading and false information have contaminated the very approval process of this project.

Additionally, some currently giving public endorsement to the project might actually oppose it if they were to discover that Rincon del Rio would be financially out of reach for them or their loved ones. So now we see another consequence from this one critical piece of missing information, and this one, having to do with public opinion, can spread. That public support (A) weighed by county officials who will cast the deciding votes, and (B) potentially influencing the thoughts and voices of others thereby increasing the volume of the effect of (A). Perhaps understandable at this point is my choice of the word "infection."

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Misleading and false information regarding skilled nursing care have been rampant. As was witnessed by all at the Planning Commission's Jan. 24 public hearing, the impassioned words of several who support the project displayed a widespread, false impression that all levels of care needs would be met at Rincon del Rio and that once there, one would never have to leave because of being too sick. Couples would never need to be separated during their lifetimes because one of the two became very ill and/or infirm.

Not true. At the Jan. 24 public hearing it was deemed necessary to have clarified the fact that Rincon del Rio will indeed not have a skilled nursing unit, despite language sprinkled throughout the Rincon del Rio promotional materials that strongly insinuates otherwise. Even language on the county website has misled to the same false conclusion, only corrected as of Feb. 7 with "… no skilled nursing services will be provided." While it is not my purpose to suggest that these misrepresentations have been intentional, it is important to note that simply to correct these words as "typos" and move on would be to ignore the effect that they have already had on public opinion and, therefore, the county's approval process. Time must be given back to the process so that parties have a reasonable chance to re-evaluate with accurate information and so that damage can be undone.

Particularly worrisome is the questionable future of the open space so heavily marketed as integral to the project. One county document even contains the wording "permanent open space," and yet, as I submit these comments, we apparently still lack a legally binding protection guaranteeing its perpetuity. Thanks to research done by Karen Abbott and her attention to details that really matter, I see that if things are left as they are, the open space will be very vulnerable to future development. There are people, including myself, who would have been active in opposing this project all along if we had been given the hard facts on this instead of false and misleading verbiage.

Most unfortunate is the fact that so few Nevada County residents know of this project despite the fact that if approved, it will bring county-wide changes in zoning and our General Plan, clearing a path for more loss of our treasured rural areas. The planning department says it is meeting its noticing obligations with mailings that go out to neighbors within 500 feet. Given the county-wide impacts of this project, I hope the department will decide that having the missing opinions of the rest of our county's citizenry is worth a bigger effort.

Margaret Mason lives in Auburn.

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