Deer Creek Park II passes hurdle
Despite strong public concerns about traffic, water quality and fire safety, a controversial subdivision one mile east of Nevada City took another step toward reality in its five-year history Tuesday.
But Nevada County supervisors made it clear the onus will be on local developer Lance Amaral to find solutions to people’s concerns before they give final approval to the 193-lot Deer Creek Park II development.
Supervisors unanimously voted to reject three appeals of the county Planning Commission’s approval of the project’s environmental impact report. Opponents argued earlier Tuesday that the report did not reveal all of the project’s potential impacts.
Chairman and District 1 Supervisor Nate Beason said the vote, “in no way predicts what this project will look like or whether it will be approved.” He also said public concerns voiced all day about additional traffic on Boulder Street, which would lead to the subdivision, and worries about wildfire evacuation routes were included in the environmental report.
The vote also meant the supervisors seemingly are content for now that septic systems in the subdivision would not pollute the headwaters of nearby Little Deer Creek, one of Nevada City’s water sources.
“The likelihood of all the (septic) systems going haywire at the same time is minimal,” Senior Planner Tod Herman said.
A standing-room-only crowd let everyone know the battle over the project is far from over.
Attendees included newly elected Nevada City Council member Barbara Coffman. She predicted the project’s residents would generate 2,000 trips daily on Red Dog Road and Boulder Street, based on an urban traffic model, and not the 1,600 trips the report expected based on a rural model.
“Boulder Street was designed for a horse and buggy, not for thousands and thousands of cars,” Coffman said. County developments have ignored impacts on Nevada City roads for decades, she said, and suggested the city might introduce length, width and weight limits for vehicles that travel it.
Abigail Givens, of Friends of Banner Mountain Trail and the Federation of Neighborhood Associations, feared that pollution from the project could go into nearby Nevada Irrigation District ditches and Little Deer Creek, endangering both city drinking water and children playing in the water.
“There is no evidence in the (report) that this will not happen,” Givens said.
Professional planner and former Nevada City Planning Commissioner Laurie Oberholzer bemoaned the lack of wildfire escape routes for the project, which fronts onto Red Dog Road. The report suggested a secondary evacuation route be cut over to Banner Mountain Trail.
Many in the audience said that small road was worse than inadequate for evacuation and probably could not be expanded because it sits on such steep ground.
“Secondary access is crucial for evacuating this site,” Oberholzer said.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@the union.com or call 477-4237.
Comments heard at Deer Creek Park II hearing
People packed the chambers of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors Tuesday to speak about the proposed Deer Creek Park II housing development.
Area resident Susan Snider said the area’s fire station is manned by three volunteers. “What happens if we can’t find them?” Snider said. “Red Dog Road cannot support a mass exodus on its own.”
Garbriel Ross, a San Francisco attorney hired by Nevada City to fight the subdivision, said the environmental report on the lots did not include the impacts of projected timber harvests on the overall property. The subdivision sits in the middle of 580 acres, with 422 total wooded acres slated for open space and harvest by local landowner and developer Lance Amaral.
“The most important legal issue is the timber harvest,” Ross said. “The future timber harvest is part of the project,” the impacts of which “were pretty much ignored” in the report, he said.
Amaral was at the hearing, but did not speak.
“Five years is an exceptional amount of time,” to deal with an environmental document and project, especially when public hearings on it will be held in the future, local land use lawyer James Curtis said on Amaral’s behalf.
– Dave Moller
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