Jobs eyed in Grass Valley’s plan to annex Bear River Mill site |

Jobs eyed in Grass Valley’s plan to annex Bear River Mill site

The Union archive/John Hart
John Hart |

Plans for Grass Valley to annex and develop an area just south of its border, including the former Bear River Mill site, garnered City Council approval Tuesday, as well as caused distress among industrial businesses within that area.

“I had to let you know that at this moment, I can’t really say that I am in favor of this because I have a lot of concerns,” said Orson Hansen, owner of Hansen Bros. Enterprises, located at 11727 La Barr Meadows Road, within the proposed annexation.

Hansen’s concerns touched on the debate at Tuesday’s council meeting where the city voted to begin the process of rezoning 421 acres along its southern border, as well as the process to annex 140 acres within that same area.

City annexation and zoning is aimed at fostering industrial uses to create manufacturing jobs, which currently have little option for Grass Valley space to operate, said community development Director Tom Last.

“The reality is our small companies start out as small manufacturing operations. When they want to expand, there is no place and they are leaving the community,” said Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout. “If our true goal is economic development and job creation, we need to be proactive.”

The land in that area is currently within Nevada County’s jurisdiction, although some of it is also zoned by the city as it lies within its sphere of influence.

And the city and the county’s zoning don’t always align, said Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout.

“I am concerned about the ‘Airport Syndrome,’ I call it. Where they have been there for more than 50 years and then a whole bunch of homes and other businesses all of a sudden start appearing and people start complaining about planes being noisy,” Hansen said.

“Well, the planes made noise before they got there. I don’t want that to happen to us, Vulcan Material or the other businesses out there.”

Founded in 1953, Hansen Brothers is an engineering contractor that serves Nevada County and surrounding communities. Next to them is Vulcan Material, a producer of construction aggregates, primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel.

“It is not unusual for them to operate on a 24-hour basis out there,” Hansen said. “We cannot be quiet. We have ready-mix customers that think pouring concrete at 1:30 in the morning is the time of day that is necessary to pour concrete. We oblige them.”

The city has a number of options at its disposal to help businesses in that area, including prezoning or annexations agreements, Last noted.

Councilman Jason Fouyer assured Hansen that not only would the city undergo a thorough vetting of the procedure and keep communication lines open with his company, but also that the city would not do anything to jeopardize his company.

Council’s unanimous vote Tuesday allocated $100,000 to initiate the process of general plan amendments for 421 acres along Grass Valley’s southern boundary, as well as prezoning and annexing the 140 acres associated with the former Bear River Mill site, between Highway 49 and La Barr Meadows. 

The project was originally envisioned for county zoning changes, partially aimed at harboring the relocation of the County corporation yard from the Loma Rica Industrial area to approximately 40 acres the county purchased at the most southern portion of the former mill site.

As this project has evolved, it has taken many different forms in terms of the study area, according to Nevada County’s description of the site. 

At the request of Grass Valley, the county’s interest was revised for a short period of time to include the area north of Kilroy’s Auto Dismantling to the McKnight Way intersection, only to return to the original study area due to the lack of interest from the property owners and the potential cost of environmental review for this much larger study area, the county reports.

Today, the county’s interest is only the area eyed for the corporation yard.

“The purpose of this change in scope is to focus on the development of the corporation yard only and not to speculate on the potential future development of undeveloped privately owned lands. It is anticipated that this project will move forward once plans for the corporation yard are more thoroughly developed and refined,” notes the county’s description, posted 11 months ago.

If all goes according to plan, Last estimated the process to zone and annex the site could take slightly longer than a year.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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