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Grass Valley Planning Commission OKs proposal to build private school in residential area

The Grass Valley Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously passed a proposal by Charis Youth Center to establish a private school in the city’s residential area.

The school is located in the upstairs room of a property at 148 Arcadia Drive. It will serve five or fewer students who will live in the two-story building.

The home is licensed by the State Department of Health and Social Services and is currently being operated as a residential treatment facility for foster youth.



“Arcadia House is a very special house,” said Carol Fuller Powell, executive director of Charis Youth Center. “It was developed more than a year ago for youth who turned 18, or 17 and a half, who for the most part have no family. These kids work very hard to put their lives together with no one behind them.”

“Arcadia House is a very special house. It was developed more than a year ago for youth who turned 18, or 17 and a half, who for the most part have no family. These kids work very hard to put their lives together with no one behind them.”Carol Fuller Powellexecutive director of Charis Youth Center

Powell found Charis Youth Center in Hayward, Calif., in 1984. The education facility relocated to Grass Valley in 2003 to an office at 714 West Main St. It offers community-based educational programs for emotionally disturbed youth using “cognitive, behavioral, and trauma-based theories.”




Students are selected to attend the educational program by the Juvenile Probation Departments, Social Services/Child Protective Services, Social Services/Aid to Adoptive Parents and school districts of various counties in California.

Powell said three female students currently reside at the private school. It is staffed with two full-time special education teachers and one full-time teacher assistant. The typical school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

According to city documents, the school is in a low-density residential area. School officials have paved an area west of the driveway to accommodate five on-site parking spaces. An estimate of eight to 10 vehicles is expected to pass through the property every day.

In other business, the Planning Commission recommended rezoning Spring Hill Village from neighborhood center zoning to Central Business Zone District.

Spring Hill Village is a community and retail center anchored by Sierra Cinemas. It is owned by Saadeh and Nanci Hattar, and is located at 840 East Main St. Other tenants of the property include Rico’s Tacos and Comcast.

The center was originally designated as a property within the Central Business Zone District. It was rezoned to Neighborhood Center Zone when the city updated its Comprehensive Development Code in 2007.

Rezoning the property back to Central Business District will allow the Hattars to expand the land’s commercial uses. Some uses allowed are: artisan shop, drive-through facility, medical services, urgent care, kennel, animal boarding, mortuary and funeral home.

The rezoning will “legalize” the use of Sierra Cinemas. The current zoning renders the operation of the theater as non-conforming, since theater use is not a listed use in the Neighborhood Center District.

In a letter submitted to the commission before the public hearing, representatives of the Hattars wrote that the current zoning “led to stalled negotiations between the landlord and tenant and has hindered potential long-term agreements between the two parties.”

Chairman Daniel Swartzendruber said he was concerned about rezoning the center before knowing what solid plans the owners have in mind in regards to use of the property.

“I understand where it’s coming from, but I’m always a little hesitant to change the zoning when there’s no project,” Swartzendruber said. “Right now there’s nothing to show what it will be used for.”

Commissioner Jacqueline Hawkins said she was concerned about the possibility of building a drive-through on the property, noting the problem of traffic congestion in a busy area.

“Maybe the intent of that original zoning was to retain the use of the neighborhood as it is now,” said Hawkins.

The motion passed with a vote of 4-1, with Hawkins dissenting.

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please email tliu@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236


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