Housing question: Voters to decide historic district measure in November
There’s little agreement on either side of the Nevada City Historic Neighborhoods District Initiative.
Proponents of the measure, which will now appear on the November ballot, say the creation of new historic districts is needed to protect the city. They argue Senate Bill 9 will enable homeowners to, among other things, split their lots, which would alter the nature of the city.
Detractors say the new historic districts will mean more governmental hoops to jump through for homeowners.
The issue has been simmering for months, leading several people at Wednesday’s Nevada City Council meeting to speak in person or over Zoom to the council. Council members voted 4 to 1 that night to put the measure on the November ballot — one of four options they had. Councilman Adam Kline opposed.
The four options were: adopt the initiative, which would have created the districts without need for a vote; put it on the November ballot; put it on the June 2024 ballot; or ask for a study.
Contacted Thursday, Kline said he knew the measure would end up on the ballot. However, he would have preferred the council have opted for a study first that hopefully would have provided an agreed-upon set of facts.
The council on Wednesday asked staff for a study, instead of choosing it as one of the four options facing it.
A study selected as one of the options would have affected the election’s timing, meaning the issue couldn’t have been on the November ballot.
“I’m looking forward to the voters having their say,” Kline said.
The historic district move was citizen initiated.
Supporters in early June filed their notice of circulation of a petition. Needing 245 signatures, they received 369 by June 23. Officials then verified the signatures and received notification on Aug. 2 of that verification. A certificate of sufficiency was issued that week. That move brought the issue to City Council on Wednesday, City Manager Sean Grayson said.
About 35 people were present for council discussion.
Pauli Halstead, who opposes the move, argued Nevada City needs more housing. She said the new historic districts will impose onerous regulations.
“I think what this initiative is about is controlling our architectural review,” she said.
Jonathan Collier, who said he’s been focused on housing for the past four years, said it’s heartbreaking to see people leave the community over the lack of housing. He questioned what’s more important to city leaders: preserving the past or protecting its future.
Cathy Wilcox-Barnes, a supporter of the initiative, claimed opponents were spreading untruths about the effort.
“If you repeat a mistruth enough times, and get it printed enough times, people will believe it,” she said.
“The regulations for architectural review on single-family zoned parcels have existed for four decades or more,” she read from a prepared statement. She added moments later: “Claims that the new Historic Neighborhoods District will place new design review standards on property owners are simply not true.”
Daniel Ketcham, president of the Nevada County Historical Society, said his group’s members are concerned about SB 9. That’s why his organization is a cosponsor of the initiative. He urged the council to place the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Others preferred the council opt for a study.
“That’s my recommendation,” Michael Taylor said. “Ask for a review, a study.”
Charlie Price questioned why, as a property owner, he wasn’t notified of the initiative. He also asked why the proposed map of the new historic districts looked like tentacles coming out of the city.
“I don’t know who drew this map, but I wish we had more options,” he added.
Alan Riquelmy is the managing editor of The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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