No one, except the Grass Valley City Council, apparently knew about the huge, suburban-style mall that for all intents and purposes is a done deal. The land is already purchased, plans have been drawn up by developer Russ Jeter for what will be built there and the permitting process is underway.
Once again, government goes through the motions of “considering” a project, using its planning department and/or some expensive outside consulting firm.
Government personnel may make some minor demands of the developer to alter some parts of the plan, but the basic proposal goes through — all of this with an after-the-fact project presentation to the taxpayers and a request for public input.
So 30 some people show up in opposition and all of the hoops have been jumped through, all but letting the residents know well in advance about the project and then obtaining input from a substantial number of taxpayers.
Why does it happen this way? Decisions usually are made about having an expanded tax base and increased employment (more taxes), even if 98 percent of the jobs are minimum wage. That is giving the council the benefit of the doubt, that some influence peddling is also not involved.
Some development proposals are handled properly, with adequate notice and actively soliciting and listening to public input. Others are not. Go figure.
My belief is that if you’re going to criticize something, offer a workable alternative. So along came Kristen Davis, in the March 21 “Ideas & Opinions” section of this newspaper with a compromise solution.
Develop a Community Benefits Agreement or CBA: “A legally binding negotiated agreement between a developer and a broad community coalition that outlines a specific project’s contributions to the community and provides legally binding assurance that the community will support the project. Forming a partnership with a project’s stakeholders (the residents).”
To save time and space, I ask that you all read this article and form a CBA, adding a written demand to the city council that the approval of this mall will be contingent upon a CBA.
Then, as Ms. Davis states, it becomes a win-win situation. Or, in my opinion, at least as close to one as we can get at this point — a point that should never have been allowed to get this far.
One person, Mr. Jeter, should not have the power to change the character of an entire community, let alone destroy two cities with incredible charm and history, by luring existing businesses to abandon their downtown areas and move to his mall. Or by setting up similar, unneeded, competing new businesses — e.g., do we really need more fast food businesses and movie theaters?
Similarly, one body of officials should not have the power to approve it without prior knowledge and input from the majority of taxpayers.
I am a resident of Alta Sierra so I have no voting power in Grass Valley, nor do I have the skills to lead a group in putting together a CBA.
I presume that Ms. Davis’s enthusiasm, expertise and connection to Grass Valley would make her available to help. I know there are one or two of you out there who would address the city council on this issue and gladly take on developing such a coalition — one that might even become a model for rural communities.
Julie Reaney lives in Grass Valley.