Devil in details for Nevada City homes |

Devil in details for Nevada City homes

When Rosa and Daniel Mizerski bought their simple, one-story house on West Broad Street just outside Nevada City’s historical district earlier this year, they knew they wanted to make renovations that would not only give them more space – including a writing alcove for Rosa – but would also keep in line with the city’s strict design guidelines.

The process into which they entered is no different than what other homeowners experience when they want to remodel a home in Nevada City, regardless of the size. It can be arduous and expensive, but it is meant to “balance the needs of the present and future against the heritage of the past,” according to the city’s official guidelines.

Richard Baker, the Mizerskis’ remodel designer and a Nevada City native, said the requirements set by the planning commission could potentially add $25,000 to $30,000 to the cost of the remodel, something that may come as a surprise to homeowners who approach the planning commission on their own.

But Planning Commissioner Laurie Oberholzter said it is not “our charge” to be concerned with the costs. “Our charge is to protect the integrity of our 19th century homes,” she said.

Baker was before the planning commission twice in the past month to get approval for changing certain aspects of the West Broad Street home while trying to maintain the integrity with which Oberholtzer said the planning commission is concerned. The planning commission has reviewed all the design changes from a proposed second story to the type of windows, along with the material used for the deck.

“We are not trying to be nitpicky, but each element that comprises a structure really has to be thought about,” said Planning Commissioner John Parent.

Traditionally, the Planning Commission is tough when it faces any proposals within the historical district – which is centered mostly downtown – but Baker said the line was stretched in more recent years.

“I have found that development rules within the historical district extends (throughout Nevada City),” Baker said.

Parent said he believes this can be attributed in part to the increased development around Nevada City.

“I think you have to be conscious of the last of the natural resources, so we have to probably be more picky than we have been in the past,” Parent said.

The Planning Commission takes each remodel proposal on as an individual case. The Mizerskis most significant change is to raise the roof 4 feet to create space for a second story. This was the issue most discussed by planning commissioners at Thursday evening’s meeting, in part because while the homes immediately around it are one-story, there are some large-scale homes nearby.

“We will lose the sense that there is a diversity (in the neighborhood),” said Planning Commissioner Victor Prussack, who was vocal about his concerns with losing some of the smaller, more simple homes that contribute to Nevada City’s unique overall look and feel.

On Thursday, the commission reviewed a variety of details in the house’s remodel, and most of the family’s plans were approved on split votes by the commission.

“The residents of Nevada City have made it clear that they want to maintain the mixture of small and large houses and income groups that we enjoy in the city,” said Oberholtzer, who opposed letting the homeowners raise the roof.

Baker said that his goal was to merge his client’s wants and needs with preserving this integrity of diversity.

“Very early on we asked the client to go out into the community and take pictures of architectural accents that they are attracted to within Nevada City,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Ruth Poulter said the owners should be commended for restoring a building that has already undergone as many as eight remodels and also adhering to other expensive guidelines including installing wood windows, a mostly wood deck, and wood siding.

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