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Candidates air views on roads, planning

Anyone who has driven on Boulder Street in Nevada City can attest to the teeth-rattling ride the road serves up.

But in answer as to why Boulder is so bad, Steve Cottrell, an incumbent candidate for Nevada City City Council, said in a candidate’s forum Thursday that the rough road serves a purpose.

“The input I get is, ‘Don’t you dare improve Boulder Street and turn it into a speedway,'” Cottrell said.



Roads, affordable housing, business and government accountability were some of the topics tackled by candidates Cottrell, Ruth Poulter and Sally Harris at the Nevada City Rotary Club forum at the National Hotel. Incumbent candidate David McKay didn’t attend because of an illness. The four are contending for three seats now held by Cottrell, McKay and Thomas Balch.

As for Boulder Street, Poulter, a Nevada City native and member of the city’s planning commission, questioned why impact fees weren’t levied on developers whose subdivisions impact the street.




“How come the council wasn’t going after these developers for their fair share?” she said.

Harris, the business manager for The Union and a member of Nevada City’s finance committee, said improving streets is important, but not always feasible.

“It is not like there is a big pot of money to repair all the streets,” Harris said.

The dearth of affordable housing in Nevada City was a concern to all the candidates. Poulter, who is a Realtor, said that as a member of the planning commission, she voted to approve the city’s housing element, a state-mandated guide to meet the city’s affordable housing needs.

Although Poulter is Cottrell’s representative on the planning commission, Cottrell said he was disappointed in the housing element and didn’t vote for it at the council because restrictions would make building affordable housing difficult.

“In my opinion, it will do nothing,” said Cottrell. “Its proponents boast that it is one of the most aggressive plans in California. I think it’s regressive.”

Scattering affordable housing throughout Nevada City is what Harris said she would advocate. The development of such housing, however, often ends up being a controversial issue as those projects go through the city planning process.

Harris said she would try to bring in “fresh blood” when making her appointment to the planning commission, a body that is often viewed as arbitrary in its decisions.

“Whoever I chose will be an independent thinker,” Harris said. “They cannot be arbitrary or capricious.”

The planning commission needs guidelines so favored applicants don’t get special consideration, Poulter said.

The commission, she said, “changes meeting to meeting on the way the meeting is going to be run.”

With 52 days to the March 2 election, Harris has the most work to do in order to be recognized by voters. While her family’s ties to Nevada County go back to the Gold Rush, she moved to Nevada City four years ago from the Bay Area.

She hopes to use her years of financial management at high-tech firms such as Intel, Oracle and Macromedia to the city’s advantage.

“It’s clear to me that I have something to offer here as far as my financial background,” Harris said.

Both Poulter and Cottrell are veterans of Nevada City business and politics. Poulter is a former restaurateur, past president of the Chamber of Commerce and former vice president of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council.

Cottrell, a local historian and writer, is serving his 12th year as a councilman.

McKay, a professional photographer and silk screen artist, is seeking his second term on the council. He has lived in Nevada City since he was teenager and also teaches photography at Sierra College.


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