Business growth may bypass area traffic issues
Relief may be on the horizon for Grass Valley businesses that want to expand their operations while the city fixes its major traffic problems – which could take at least five years.
An exception in the city’s Street System Master Plan, expected to go before the City Council for a public hearing Sept. 28, permits development – even if it has an adverse impact on traffic – if certain conditions are met.
Projects that don’t meet the city’s criteria for moving traffic through intersections can be approved by the City Council if:
• A solution has been identified and approved as part of the city or regional Capital Improvement Plan.
• The council approves a project report, an identified funding source, and a schedule for completion.
The developer may still have to provide traffic-control staff or take other measures to keep traffic moving until the improvement is completed.
“It provides a strict requirement for a project to move forward, and it also gives council the comfort level for allowing the level of service … to go below (level D) for a specific period of time,” Mayor Patti Ingram said.
Intersections in California are graded on an A through F scale, based on how long it takes a car to go through them during peak traffic periods. Grass Valley’s General Plan requires a level of service D, which means it shouldn’t take a motorist more than 40 seconds to get through an intersection.
The city’s desire to maintain that standard while it comes up with a plan to fix Grass Valley’s worst intersections has stymied several expansion projects and frustrated businesses that need room to grow.
“Sometimes dealing with these issues requires sacrifice for a period of time,” Ingram said, “whether that’s the community with traffic issues or with our business community. I do not want to stop businesses from providing services to our community.”
The Street System Master Plan is the result of a yearlong series of hearings and workshops to identify and improve the city’s worst intersections.
No. 1 on the list of recommended improvements is the Idaho-Maryland Road/East Main Street intersection. Traffic heading onto Highway 49/20 would be routed down the frontage road and enter the highway at South Auburn Street. Then traffic signals would be installed at the intersection.
The master plan recommends that the work be completed within the next five years, but whenever it’s done won’t be soon enough for businessmen like Jim Moule.
Moule wants to move his business, Moule Paint and Glass, across East Main Street into a new 13,500-square-foot building, but has been told by the city he will have to leave his existing building vacant because of the traffic problems that will result.
He said recently he needs to rent his existing building to help finance the $1.5 million structure he wants to build.
Moule; Keoni Allen, president of the Nevada County Contractors Association; and others complain that developer fees are paid to city – some to mitigate traffic problems – but that no improvements are being made.
“Development fees are paid to finance traffic improvements, but nothing ever actually gets built,” Moule said.
“All they do is studies, one study after another.”
The city currently has about $965,000 in developer fees, almost $500,000 of it earmarked for traffic improvements.
“I think the city is addressing concerns in a time frame that may not meet everybody’s expectations,” Ingram said. “Unfortunately, government doesn’t move at the pace that it should at times.”
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