Loma Rica Ranch neighborhood gets OK from Grass Valley City Council | TheUnion.com

Loma Rica Ranch neighborhood gets OK from Grass Valley City Council

Grass Valley City Council member Hilary Hodge, citing affordability concerns, was the lone no vote on a proposed 235-unit housing development on the Loma Rica Ranch property off Brunswick Road.

“I respect my colleagues and I understand this project has been a 25-year process that many of them have been present for and a part of, but a lot has changed in 25 years,” Hodge said.

Hodge said she went door-to-door for nearly a year while running first for county supervisor and then for city council.

“Over and over again, I heard the priority was affordable housing,” she said. “While construction costs and development costs often provide a barrier to what we call affordable housing, I feel that it is the responsibility of those who make policy to be clear about representing the community and what it needs.”

Hodge said the Loma Rica Ranch development, with the initial development of the Creeks neighborhood passing its last hurdle Tuesday, will likely be good for the community and offers great amenities like an extensive trail system.

But, she said, it does not address “what is clearly the most important need” for the community, affordable housing.

“I can’t in good conscience vote for that (development) if I am really here to represent the people of Grass Valley,” she said.

The Creeks neighborhood, between Sutton Way and Brunswick Road north of Idaho-Maryland Road, is just the first phase of the 452-acre mixed-use development. Loma Rica Ranch includes three other neighborhoods slated for development: the Farm, Lake and Trailhead neighborhoods.

The Loma Rica Ranch project was initially approved by the council in 2011 and its environmental impact report was certified at that time, Grass Valley Community Development Director Tom Last said.

Amendments to the specific plan were brought to the council to be approved, including removing a commercial center from the Creeks neighborhood and relocating part of that to the Farm neighborhood; relocating an extension of Dorsey Drive and creating one centrally located signalized intersection rather than two roundabouts on Brunswick Road; creating two pedestrian undercrossings on Brunswick Road and on the Dorsey Drive extension; and adding more open space.

Some of the concerns aired during public comment included increased traffic, as well as safety issues with the proposed tunnel under Brunswick. Nevada County Airport manager Kevin Edwards, as well as several representatives from Cal Fire, worried the encroaching development and potential complaints could force the airport to close.

Others brought up the affordability issue, saying that a $400,000 house is out of reach for most local residents, given the median income of $35,000 in Grass Valley. The housing being proposed is 175 single-family homes and 60 duplexes ranging from 1,200 to 2,600 square feet, with prices estimated to start in the high $300,000s for duplexes and going up to the high $500,000s for the detached homes.

Mayor Lisa Swarthout noted efforts in past decades to mandate affordable housing elements into developments all failed.

“There is no such thing as affordable anymore,” she said. “That term needs to be changed.”

Swarthout added the Loma Rica Ranch development is not the appropriate project for such a component, musing, “Maybe a housing authority is the answer.”

The council approved the amendments needed to move the project forward on the 4-1 vote. Developer Steve Garrett of Castle Companies has said he hopes to break ground this summer.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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