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Morgan home eyed as landmark

The house that San Simeon architect Julia Morgan designed near the turn of the last century could soon be a candidate as a state historical landmark.

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will discuss whether the county should seek landmark status for the house, which sits on a 760-acre swath of county land slated for annexation into Grass Valley. The house near Allison Ranch Road and several adjoining buildings would be nominated at the same time.



The land belongs to two main entities, Robinson Enterprises Inc. and the Amaral family’s Terra Alta Development, both based in Nevada City.




Supervisor Bruce Conklin first made the proposal in August 2000 to give the property an extra layer of protection.

He dropped the matter at the owners’ suggestion when the county started negotiating a long-term lease for the property, he said.

The supervisors wanted a 20-year lease, but the property owners only offered a year-to-year lease, Conklin said.

The county cannot put up a lot of money to improve the property only to have the property owners cancel the lease, Conklin said.

Under a 1997 annexation agreement between the property owners and the city of Grass Valley, the house is to be given away to a party acceptable to all. Two years ago, Grass Valley and the property owners agreed the property could be transferred to the county.

Rob Kellenbeck of Grass Valley, who is trying to save the house, said the landmark status should have been pursued a year ago.

If the property is eventually to become public property, he asked, why do the property owners oppose the historic designation?

“What possible difference could it make to them if in fact they are divesting themselves of their interest in this property?” he asked.

Property owners’ representative Andy Cassano of Nevada City Engineering Inc. on Friday said the property owners haven’t taken a position on the landmark status.

“At this point,” he added, “we’re neither opposed or in favor of it.”

They did not want the historical landmark designation when it was first proposed because they did not have all the information on the application, Cassano said.

The owners have already committed to not demolishing the buildings,” he said, adding the property owners intend to prosecute trespassers on the property. The house has suffered from vandalism over the years.

Roberta Deering, executive director of the California Preservation Foundation of Oakland, a not-for-profit organization, has seen pictures of the house.

“It could be a spectacular place,” Deering said Friday.

The landmark status adds a lot of value and prestige to the property and makes it eligible for state grant programs, she said.

A house on the California register could still be demolished, Deering said, but there would be more scrutiny and, hopefully, work to save it.

Under California’s environmental laws, the impacts of future developments on the historic property would have to be looked at, she said.

WHAT: Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting

WHEN: 11:15 a.m. Tuesday

WHERE:Where: Rood Administrative Center, 950 Maidu Ave.

INFORMATION: 265-1480


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