Nevada City hosts workshop to develop old airport site
May 31, 2018
Nevada City's old airport hasn't been used to land a plane since the 1950s. But the 109-acre site less than two miles from downtown, which has been mostly abandoned ever since, could see plans for re-use move forward soon.
Over the last few years, Nevada City has been exploring possible public uses for the property, which is zoned for agricultural forestry and which has been used as a temporary transfer station by the city's public works department for large items that are slated to be re- purposed or disposed.
In May 2017, the city hosted a public workshop to gather ideas for the property, which included an arboretum, disc golf course, bicycle track, celestial observatory, homeless village, amphitheater, ropes course, Nisenan tribe cultural learning center and a solar farm.
City Planner Amy Wolfson grouped and ranked the ideas, with "public utility services" such as the solar farm or biomass power plant ranking first. A "Golden Gate Park-like development" came in second. Active recreation uses, such as athletic fields, ranked third. And educational facilities, such as nature and cultural museums, ranked fourth. Building affordable housing units was also discussed, but the idea didn't rank high enough for consideration.
On Wednesday, Nevada City staff and council members convened another public workshop. This one was tailored specifically to the most popular uses suggested by the earlier workshop, with a practical twist. Participants were broken into groups and provided a map of the site, then handed out to-scale solar power arrays, parking spaces, athletic fields and even bathroom facilities to place on the property. Wolfson deliberately mixed the groups up and asked them to collaborate to achieve a compromise if necessary.
"We don't want to presume we know what people want," she said. "My hope is that they'll garner an understanding of the spatial requirements and how they want the site to look."
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Mayor Duane Strawser reminded participants this is another step in the process of developing a master plan for the old airport property. Strawser said he would give priority to suggestions advocated by neighbors, saying, "The people who are most directly affected have to have the loudest voice." He added that while a solar farm was a top suggestion, neither he nor Councilmember Reinette Senum support ground arrays.
"They have to be elevated," he said. "We don't want to cover usable land."
Most of the audience members expressed a desire to preserve trees that remain on the property, grouping solar arrays and facilities in the flat, cleared areas closer to the existing roads. Several proposed site plans recommended going with ground solar arrays as being more cost-effective.
Planning commissioner Stuart Lauter noted that a deeper conversation about solar power obviously was needed.
After the workshop, Wolfson planned to gather the site maps and compile the suggestions to take to the council for direction.
"We will recommend a broader outreach to the public" after that, she said.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.