Grass Valley residents may sway Dorsey Marketplace tenants | TheUnion.com

Grass Valley residents may sway Dorsey Marketplace tenants

John Orona
Staff Writer

Grass Valley residents may gain a greater say in which businesses might populate the Dorsey Marketplace project should it move forward thanks to a maneuver the council is exploring that would require a hearing for certain businesses to fill the development.

During its Tuesday meeting the Grass Valley City Council held a public hearing for the Dorsey Marketplace project, a 28.6-acre mixed use development designed to be a walkable community. The development would sit at the southeast corner of Dorsey Drive and the northbound Highway 49 off-ramp.

The project has two alternative plans: one with more housing, and the other with more commercial space and more environmental concerns. Both the Planning Commission and the design review committee previously recommended Alternative B, which would provide a 172-unit apartment complex and 104,350 square feet of space for commercial and community use, compared to the 90 units of housing and 178,960 square feet of commercial and community space offered in Alternative A.

Since its first iteration more than five years ago, the project has faced public opposition due to traffic impacts; affordability; environmental concerns associated with construction; and the use of a brownfield site that was formerly Spring Hill Mine.

While many speakers at the meeting were in support of the project for increasing the housing stock and integrating the feel of the community into the development design, others were hoping the developer would split some of the units to create some smaller, more affordable spaces; make solar arrays a more pronounced part of the project; and reduce the project’s environmental impacts.

Some who spoke in opposition to the project said they felt the development was inevitable, but hoped the community would have some influence of how the project would take shape.

Concerns

Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout said her primary concern was the effect the new development would have on existing retailers it would compete with.

“I’ve had a lot of concerns about the retail on this project since the very beginning of it,” Swarthout said. “We want to make sure that whatever retail comes in will complement our existing retail and not cannibalize our existing shopping centers. If you look at the history of Grass Valley that’s what happened.”

Swarthout said the Pine Creek shopping center and Higgins Marketplace are examples to learn from in not duplicating existing retail business.

“We were trading sales tax dollars from one location to the other,” Swarthout said. “What I would really like to see us do here as part of the conditions of approval is to create some sort of an ordinance that will speak to the type of retail you’re going to bring in. I know at this point it’s an unknown but I really think the community needs to be involved in what happens.”

The city has been researching ways to narrow which businesses could come into the project, a move some public commenters also called for. According to Grass Valley City Attorney Michael Colantuono, 15 other cities in California have used zoning regulations that require use permits for specific classes of retail to come in, meaning there would be a hearing that provided public feedback before a business is approved.

“The challenge is you have to define the class objectively. It can’t be a ‘We’ll know it when we see it,’” Colantuono said.

Some criteria used to define which projects cities would allow in the past included square footage, whether they are a national chain, and union membership.

The city will continue the public hearing process during its second meeting in March. City staff will review comments about the project’s environmental impact report and continue researching ways to limit which businesses are eligible for the development. A first reading of an ordinance for the project could be brought in the following meeting.

“I really do think we have to do something to make sure that our existing retail will survive,” Swarthout said. “A use permit gives the community an opportunity to voice their concerns and talk about it versus just a blanket permit to be able to do anything.”

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


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