LAFCo reviews Nevada City’s sphere, approves Sugarloaf annexation |

LAFCo reviews Nevada City’s sphere, approves Sugarloaf annexation

Nevada City Attorney Hal DeGraw gives a statement in favor of keeping Nevada City's sphere of influence intact and moving forward with the annexation process during Thursday's meeting of the Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission.
Elias Funez/

Nevada County’s Local Agency Formation Commission reviewed Nevada City’s “phased annexation plan” Thursday — a lengthy document the city prepared, at the commission’s request, which provides a timeline for future land annexations and supports the city’s preferred sphere of influence boundary.

The commission presented its plans earlier this year to restrict the boundaries of the city’s sphere of influence from 2,907 acres to 1,425 acres — nearly half the current size. But at recent LAFCo meetings, Nevada City staff and numerous members of the public have spoken in favor of keeping, or increasing, the size of the city’s sphere of influence.

Some ask why LAFCo staff is proposing sphere reduction despite obvious public opposition.

“I’ve been part of city government for a long time,” said Nevada City Council Member Evans Phelps, who also sits on the commission, at Thursday’s meeting. “When something is proposed by staff and there’s not a single member of the public or the community that supports it, it usually falls pretty dead. Other than (LAFCo staff), there hasn’t been anybody that’s come forward and said this is a good idea to reduce our sphere and make a whole lot of work. I just don’t understand the need to do this.”

The city’s proposed plan included some additions to its current sphere of influence. Commissioners, however, questioned the city’s ability to provide water, sewer, police protection and fire services to the areas it proposes annexing in the future.

Enough water?

Nick Wilcox, president of the Nevada Irrigation District’s board of directors, who also sits on the commission, expressed concern over Nevada City’s access to water during dry years.

Nevada City, which has its own water supply from Deer Creek, purchases surplus water from NID during years when the creek doesn’t supply all its needs.

During a water shortage, Wilcox said, NID would first cut off supply to its out-of-district raw water customers before district customers. During multiple dry years, he said, Nevada City’s water supply is “not firm.”

“There’s a definite pecking order in which people are cut off, and currently Nevada City is in the most vulnerable category,” he said.

When parcels are annexed into the city, NID typically agrees to serve those areas, Wilcox said, adding that his point wasn’t entirely related to the annexation plan, but “goes more to the core use.”

Assistant City Engineer Bill Falconi said the city has three wells which would likely provide enough water to supply the city’s needs during dry years, if needed.

‘The big question’

City staff answered numerous questions posed by commissioners regarding the city’s plan to increase its fire, police and sewer services as it continues to annex land.

Phelps said she appreciated the “minutiae” of the questions the commissioners were asking, but said she wanted to discuss the bigger picture.

“Nobody’s talking about the big question here,” she said. “Is this a good idea?”

Nevada County Supervisor Dan Miller, who sits on the commission, asked whether Nevada City’s proposal to annex an additional 1,281 acres of land by 2020 was a likely plan.

“I guess I want to know if there’s a guarantee that this is going to occur,” he said.

“With the cooperation of LAFCo,” said Hal Degraw, Nevada City’s attorney, in response.

Further review?

LAFCo staff said an environmental impact report on Nevada City’s plan would likely need to be completed before a decision could be made on the city’s sphere.

Laurie Oberholtzer, a Nevada City resident, urged the commissioners to come to a conclusion Thursday, rather than continuing the process.

“A lengthy, costly, unnecessary review process … would result if a decision is not made today,” she said. “I think it would set a bad precedent. I don’t think the three cities, in the future, can afford that kind of a cost every five years if they make minor changes to their sphere of influence plans.”

LAFCo staff said the commission would likely fund an environmental impact report rather than burdening the city with the cost.

Paul Matson, a former LAFCo chair, asked the commissioners “not to get ahead of yourselves today in what you’re looking at.”

“Today, the job is not to determine whether or not Nevada City can police Banner Mountain 20 years from now, or 10 years from now … You do that when the application comes forward, and then you measure whether sewer, fire, water and police can be dealt with.”

The commission’s job Thursday, he said, was to ask, “Is this a reasonable plan for us to evaluate as the annexation requests come forward?”

Commissioners voted to continue the discussion at the next LAFCo meeting and directed staff to review the city’s plan, work with city staff, and return to the next meeting with a proposal on the level of environmental review that will be necessary to make an informed decision on the city’s sphere.

LAFCo’s next meeting is tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 16 at the Nevada County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City.

Sugarloaf annexation

Commissioners on Thursday approved Nevada City’s proposal to annex approximately 54 acres of land, including the city-owned Sugarloaf property, two parcels owned by the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, four residential lots and several acres of highway right-of-way.

The approved annexation was an effort to bring the city-owned Sugarloaf property, as well as parcels that receive city services, into the city’s boundaries, according to a staff report.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email or call 530-477-4231.

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