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Nevada City zoning changes recommended to council

John Orona
Staff Writer

A Thursday Planning Commission decision has raised more concerns about zoning ordinances in Nevada City’s historic district.

During its regular meeting the commission continued an application that would allow a non-retail solar energy business to open on Spring Street and install a sign above its door.

According to the city’s municipal code, businesses may only occupy ground floor tenancy in the district if it depends upon walk-in traffic, provides the city with tax revenue and provides products to a broad spectrum of the general public, among other requirements.

According to the applicant’s representative at the meeting, the building would be used for administration and could potentially have some public educational events.

Because the business did not meet criteria and was unlikely to be approved, the agenda item was continued so the applicant could pursue a conditional use permit, which may provide an easier route to approval.

“I think it’s clear that this would be a real stretch,” Commissioner Peter Van Zant said. “It’s a good space, trying to build up Spring Street, but I still think this doesn’t meet the plain language or intent.”

Commissioner James Rainey suggested the City Council look into amending the ordinance to allow greater flexibility in accepting businesses into the district in light of the COVID-19 recession and possible vacant buildings downtown.

“I totally support the business, I’m just trying to read and interpret the code as it is,” said Rainey, who was not in favor of the application. “I don’t think it’s for us to change it, there may be reason to change it. That tends to be a decision that the council needs to make.”

The application could come back to the commission as a conditional use permit as early as its July meeting.

According to City Planner Amy Wolfson, a recommendation for the council to review the ordinance is within the commission’s power, but it would need to provide direction in another venue.

In February and again in June the Nevada City Council saw decisions from the Planning Commission seeking clarity on ordinances. In February it was decided that architectural conflicts in the historic zoning and building codes should defer to the architecture of the building’s time, if it is not a Mother Lode-era style.

A decision on a sign variance for the National Exchange Hotel — which, if approved, would allow a large, painted mural on the east side of the building — was continued at the council’s last meeting.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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