30-unit housing development proposed for Grass Valley
May 22, 2018
A Nevada City architect is proposing a 30-unit housing development just outside historic downtown Grass Valley, on a 8.4-acre property that currently is the site of tomato farm Greg's Organics.
Tobin Dougherty brought the conceptual residential project, tentatively called Gilded Springs, to Grass Valley's Development Review Committee Tuesday for feedback.
And he got plenty, from neighbors who are furious that anyone is developing the former farmstead and dairy property off West Main and Alta streets.
"I don't want a war," said Linden Avenue resident Dan McKenzie. "But we are very upset about the project."
Residents in the area expressed a number of concerns including traffic on the already-busy Main Street corridor and the Alta Street "raceway," as well as the effect of the development on the property's many springs.
Attorney Gregg Lien, who is representing at least one of the homeowners, brought in a geotechnical expert to discuss the near-saturation of the soil and advocate for careful study of the drainage issue.
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McKenzie was one of those who disputed the characterization of the creek on the property as seasonal.
"My land is wet all year," he said, noting a spring on the property was historically used to cool the milk being produced.
"There are a lot of issues aside from the fact that the neighborhood hates this project," McKenzie said, citing problems with mold and foundation damage from water runoff.
McKenzie said he is not against growth, but does not want Greg Weber's farm destroyed, noting the property has been farmed since 1850.
No formal application has yet been submitted, City Planner Lance Lowe said, adding the development of single residences is consistent with Grass Valley's General Plan and with the current zoning, with the exception of one proposed flag lot. Lowe also noted that Peabody Creek runs along the property boundary and would need to be preserved and maintained, and that the home design needs to replicate the feel of the older historic homes in the area.
"This is step one, to get feedback," said Rob Wood of Millennium Planning & Engineering, who is working with Dougherty. "It's an exciting project for the city, an infill development that's walkable to downtown."
Both Wood and Dougherty said the development is being planned to fit in with the existing neighborhood, with multiple house designs and sizes that will not all face the same way on the lots and will work with the existing terrain. The creek will be cleaned up and invasive blackberry bushes will be removed, Wood said.
Dougherty told the neighbors his design was one of three proposals considered by the legal owners, the White family.
"I was chosen by the owners specifically for my sensitivity in design," he said, adding the Whites are very proud of their family history, which they trace back to Grass Valley pioneer Ben Taylor.
"The site comes first," Dougherty said. "Then we can place the houses. We're not here to cut and level (the property) and throw boxes on it."
The architect said he is planning a mix of energy-efficient houses with some small cottages and larger houses as they go up the hill.
In response to questions, he said the pricing is expected to start in the $400,000s and go up to the $700,000s.
"People need homes, homes of better quality," Dougherty said, adding that he wants to keep the houses within a certain price range. If a lot of restrictions are placed on the development, he warned, the price could go up.
"This is reality," Dougherty said. "The property was established as residential (zoning) long ago."
Dougherty said he has met with Wolf Creek Alliance and is planning several meetings with the neighbors in the weeks to come.
"There are not many properties left that don't have issues (with the) soil or water or setback constraints," he said. "It's very important for people to recognize we are addressing the issues. We understand there is water there, we understand that water flows downhill … We will mitigate the effects."
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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