Council wades into waterway setbacks |

Council wades into waterway setbacks

A proposed waterway setback that will be considered by the Grass Valley City Council next week isn’t sitting well with Wolf Creek water-quality advocates.

Supporters, however, counter that the new standard is a balanced approach for developers and environmentalists.

On Tuesday, Grass Valley City Council members will decide whether a minimum 30-foot waterway setback is the best way to begin tackling concerns about development being too close to a city waterway.

“We’re trying to come up with something that is fair and balanced,” said Councilman Chauncey Poston, who sat on a committee of city officials and community members reviewing the waterways standard.

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 the city subcommittee for further review and they came back with a standard that a city-hired consultant originally recommended.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” said David Brownstein, president of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance. “Sixty feet would be a reasonable minimum.”

The 30-foot setback is not supported by science, Brownstein said. A scientific study of creeks in western Placer County revealed a 60-foot minimum was appropriate for their waterways, which are comparable to what is found locally, he said.

“Herbicides and oil can seep into the creek, if you don’t have these buffers,” Brownstein said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has identified high amounts of animal feces seeping into Wolf Creek as a key problem, Brownstein said.

Poston said the proposal will begin making a difference with such water-quality problems.

“There’s going to be people who aren’t happy with this,” he said. “But it’s a good step in the right direction.

“It’s key to protecting the creek and riparian habitat,” he said.

Some residents, such as Harry Stewart, who previously were concerned about how the ordinance might impact their property, expressed cautious optimism.

Stewart owns a property on East Main Street, but the latest proposal eliminates Matson Creek from inclusion as a waterway, which Stewart previously was concerned about.

“If there’s something in there (that I find objectionable), I’ll scream bloody murder,” Stewart said.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 125 East Main St.


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

• Minimum setback distance of 2.5 times the height of the bank or 30 feet, whichever is greater.

• Planned large development areas are recommended to have a 100-foot setback distance, but such projects will be evaluated separately.

• Residents rebuilding or adding on a structure falling within the minimum setback would need to file for a variance from the city.

• A path or trail can be within a creek or waterway setback but no other structure, road, parking access, paved area or swimming area is allowed within a waterway setback.

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