Developer: Loma Rica stays ‘green’
A battle raged about a decade ago over a proposed development at Loma Rica Ranch, 452 acres on both sides of Brunswick Road at the edge of Grass Valley.
Teachers Management & Investment Corp. proposed building 630 houses, townhouses and condominiums plus commercial, industrial and retail buildings on Loma Rica, which originally was the ranch of millionaire Harold McBoyle, owner of the Idaho-Maryland gold mine.
“(TMI’s) sole motivation was really to try to turn as big a dollar as they could,” said Philip Carville, who was among the project’s opponents – a group that coalesced to form the still-active Rural Quality Coalition.
Now Carville wants to succeed where past developers have failed.
With financial backing from the deep-pocketed Ronald Getty Trust, Carville has a vision of developing Loma Rica in an environmentally sensitive way that would stand as a model.
“We want it to really elevate the level of development” in Nevada County, Carville said. “I’d say I’m a green developer.”
Instead of cookie-cutter 4,000- to 6,000-square-foot “lunkers,” Carville envisions new homes with retro architecture true to Gold Country tradition, including tin roofs and front porches.
The homes would be energy efficient, with photovoltaic solar panels where feasible and large-gauge wiring that conserves electricity by conducting it more easily than standard-gauge wiring, Carville said.
Instead of plunking houses on big lots along streets with no sidewalks, Carville proposes to cluster homes and leave plenty of space between lots to accommodate pedestrians and bicycles.
Ideally, “you would never have to be in conflict with cars” to get around, said Carville. He’s even considering putting a culvert underneath Brunswick Road (which bisects the property) for a pedestrian and bicycle trail.
Where would all these people walk and bike? To a community garden, for one.
And as the centerpiece of the development, Carville envisions a business “village.” It would feature small retailers and a day care center, and would be anchored by a large exercise club with five year-round, heated outdoor swimming pools and an outdoor restaurant.
“It will be one of the coolest clubs in the Sierra – a community club,” said Carville. Open to the public, it would offer stipends so there would “be no kid who can’t come.”
The village would be on the west side of Brunswick and would feature affordable housing upstairs over businesses, he said.
On the east side of Brunswick, Carville proposes180 homes and a 150-room hotel.
Carville has lived in Nevada County since 1974. He served for three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, got a bachelor’s degree in forestry and a master’s in business administration from the University of California at Berkeley, and worked as an executive for the now-defunct Fibreboard Corp., a forest products company. Carville developed Northstar-at-Tahoe for Fibreboard, which won awards for being environmentally friendly, he said.
Carville owns the South Yuba Club in Nevada City with his wife, Belinda Carville, and son, Mike Carville.
Carville and the Ronald Getty Trust will decide in a week or two whether to close escrow and buy the Loma Rica property for $7 million.
Margaret Urke, executive director of the California Association of Business and Property Owners, said lots of local developers “have bent over backward” to be environmentally-sensitive, yet were opposed by county leadership that she says doesn’t want growth.
Urke believes “the environmental movement supports its own and they push through things that the rest of us couldn’t get through. I would hope they wouldn’t be hypocrites and (will) examine this project with the same scrutiny they would any other development.”
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