‘Holistic’ zoning coming to Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

‘Holistic’ zoning coming to Grass Valley

Strictly segregated industrial, commercial, and residential neighborhoods are out.

Walkable neighborhoods that share a “look and feel,” linked by corridors to other walkable spots, are in.

That message was stressed this week from Grass Valley’s City Council and two planning commissioners, who provided direction to consultants charged with overhauling the city’s outdated zoning and subdivision ordinances, as well its antiquated environmental guidelines.

“Grass Valley is a great place. The basic principle is what do we do to preserve Grass Valley as a great place,” Councilman Steve Enos said.

But with its 1960s-era zoning ordinance, maintaining Grass Valley’s greatness requires permit exceptions and strains city and developer resources.

Enos and Councilwoman Linda Stevens took up the issue, and under their direction the city kicked off the overhaul of its land-use regulations last year. This spring, the council hired San Luis Obispo-based consultants Crawford Multari & Clark to update, and radically revise, the city’s ordinances.

For $125,000, the city will receive a new “form-based” code, all the rage among cities hoping to beautify suburban development.

Instead of dictating buildings that must be “so big (and) so high, form based says, ‘OK we want you to build this look.’ (It offers) more design suggestions for your buildings,” said Community Development Director Joe Heckel.

Grass Valley’s current zoning ordinance includes lengthy lists of allowed uses – antique shops, art galleries, pharmacies and stockbrokers are permitted in office and professional districts and pottery kilns, blacksmith shops, and junkyards screened by a fence are permitted in general industrial districts, for example.

The longstanding policy also details parking space requirements for various types of buildings – even differentiating between mechanical and self-service car washes.

For example:

• Animal grooming – one parking space per 200 square feet.

• Bowling alley – five spaces per lane.

• Church – one space for each clergy person and one space for every three seats in the sanctuary and choir loft.

• Telegram office – one space per 300 square feet.

In contrast, the new zoning code will be in “plain English, highly illustrated,” and focus on the “character of individual places within a community,” lead consultant Paul Crawford said.

It will differentiate between neighborhoods that communities hope to preserve and those that communities would like to improve, Crawford said. And, the new guidelines will encourage mixed-use, dense development.

Planning Commissioner Paul Aguilar called the new approach “holistic.”

“We’ve had projects that meet every one of our design guidelines but they were blah,” Aguilar said. “There has to be more to it.”

Even the development community is supportive of the new code. Barbara Bashall, executive director of the Nevada County Contractors’ Association, is optimistic about the city’s plans, which she hopes will provide contractors with a “predictable process… (and) clear guidelines.”

As a former San Luis Obispo County planning director, Crawford knows how tedious project approvals can be.

“Hopefully (the new ordinance) will make it easy for people to do the right thing and (undesired) development finds it difficult to proceed,” Crawford said.

The public will have the opportunity to comment on the ordinance while it is being drafted. A first draft is expected in March 2005, and the final copy will be presented to the City Council in June 2005, Planning Director Tom Last said.

For more information on the updating effort, contact the Grass Valley Community Development Department at 274-4330, 125 E. Main St., or info@cityofgrassvalley.com.

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