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Growth not necessary or inevitable

The Union photo/John HartTerry Lamphier

This is one in a series of Other Voices guest columns by candidates for Grass Valley City Council and Nevada County supervisor on their visions for the future.

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What right do I have to fight for my vision of preserving our small town of Grass Valley? I wasn’t born here. I’ve only been a resident in the city limits for two years. I have no formal political experience. I have almost no family here. I’m a contractor who could only benefit from more growth.

I’m going to use someone else’s words to respond. I “highly value the city’s small town, rural character and sense of community. Grass Valley’s friendliness and community consciousness stand in sharp contrast to … impersonal large cities and modern suburbs.” I value the “trees, various other natural amenities, views, architectural features, and the historical look and feel of the downtown area. High on the list of aesthetic priorities are the entryways to and highway corridors through town.”

The above quotes are from the Grass Valley General Plan of 1999. It doesn’t really matter that I grew up in a rural area and lived much of my adult life in a major urban area, or that I have been a property owner in this area for almost 20 years. What matters is that this area has captured all of the best of being a small town – and is in imminent danger of losing itself.

You have seen the changes if you have been here only a short time. Almost monthly, there is another construction project starting up and more open space gets filled in and more traffic struggles to get through the same old intersections.

Has growth made Grass Valley more affordable for prospective homeowners? No. Have ever more commercial businesses provided the kinds of employment that enable people to get mortgages? No. Has increasing growth reduced traffic burdens? No. Does the replacement of “mom and pop” businesses with national or international chain stores keep profits in our community? No.

Has the current make-up of city officials kept to the General Plan, the plan that a few short years ago was worked out with citizen input? This is not a straightforward question, but the sense that I have is, ultimately, no. As I write this, a local developer has broken his huge, ongoing development into pieces and is getting approval for his projects one by one, yet he should be putting his proposal through as a Special Development Area, as the cumulative impacts are great. This is wrong and should be fought.

As I write this there is a long-time, well-respected businessman who wants to build a new place of business – and cover up a creek, at a time when many are fighting to open up and protect creeks. Creeks keep us connected to our rural values and enhance property and community wealth. It is wrong to cover them up.

As I write this, we are about to spend over 6 million dollars to “solve” one intersection problem while we have been cutting back on public transportation. This is wrong.

As I write this, there are four massive developments in various stages of planning that will need to be annexed by the city to be economically viable. While they all incorporate aspects of “smart growth,” a concept I whole-heartedly endorse, they cannot meet the General Plan and will require said plan to change. These developments, ultimately are geared to Sacramento-region commuters looking for cheap housing. These developments, ultimately, are geared toward providing greatly expanded commercial development – which is good for the tax base – but with mostly entry level employment. This does not enable your son or daughter to buy a house here, despite their proposals to provide “work-force” housing – bait dangled to sweeten the deal but leading, ultimately, to a great loss to our community and the values we all put together into our General Plan a mere five years ago.

I believe growth is neither necessary or inevitable. The city’s own reports show that growth will increase the need for city services at proportionately greater expense, that revenues which could offset some of this expense is to be shared with the county, that each house built costs the city more than $500 per year. And we still haven’t felt the impacts of approved but unbuilt growth.

Doesn’t common sense dictate a new direction? Take a breath…

Terry Lamphier of Grass Valley is a write-in candidate for Grass Valley City Council.