Council approves waterway setback |

Council approves waterway setback

A new 30-foot waterway setback could put a wrinkle in future development plans for people who own creekside property in Grass Valley, those affected say.

Mark Heauser, who owns property next to Wolf Creek at 403 Idaho-Maryland Rd., said Wednesday he’s concerned the city’s new standard would limit his property’s development potential.

“Yeah, I think (the 30-foot setback) was in excess,” Heauser said.

But some people have argued for a deeper setback, saying as much as 100 feet is needed to protect city waterways. Late Tuesday, City Council members championed the 30-foot setback as a compromise between protecting Wolf Creek and the rights of property owners wanting to develop their property. They approved it in a 5-0 vote, saying it’s a good place to start in protecting area creeks.

The new ordinance requires that all new construction – including parking lots – be at least 30 feet away from waterways. It does not include permeable structures such as trails, but would cover buildings such as room additions and tool sheds. It could go into effect as soon as December.

Heauser has no immediate plans to develop his creekside property, but he said a 20-foot required setback from the road on top of the new creek setback together create a potential problem.

A sand filtration system for water runoff should allow development closer to the creek than the new standard, Heauser said.

The ordinance’s driving force is a concern that development close to the creek or other waterways is polluting them with contaminants such as oil and herbicides.

“It’s not going to be an easy task to protect Wolf Creek,” said Mayor Mark Johnson. But with the first ever setback standard, it’s more important than ever for people interested in protecting the creek and those interested in developing property near the creek “to work together,” he said.

Earlier this year, City Council members rejected a waterway setback standard up to 100 feet, saying it would be too much of a burden on future development. They sent the issue back to a city subcommittee for further review and they came back with a standard that a city-hired consultant originally recommended.

“It’s just common sense (to have a wider setback),” said resident Virginia Moran, who favored a 50-foot setback. “The soil is like a natural sponge.” It would absorb potential pollutants before getting into waterways, she added.

Under the city’s new standard, residents rebuilding or adding on a structure falling within the minimum setback would need to file for a variance from the city, including plans to handle water runoff and protect creek habitat.

Many who wanted a larger setback sounded like they were encouraged by the city’s first step.

“This is definitely an improvement,” resident Pat Wynne said.

The ordinance would take affect in December, 30 days after passing its required second reading at the Nov. 13 council meeting.


To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail or call 477-4234.

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