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Nevada City’s good ol’ boys club

Government is supposed to be a body of servants paid and/or authorized to uphold the laws of the land equally for everyone and execute the will and intent of the voting population. Government is not supposed to reinterpret what voters have elected or create laws to specifically benefit one individual’s financial status.

Not so in Nevada City. In fact, over the past few months Nevada City disallowed the owners of the Grandmere Inn/Sergeant House on Broad Street from selling their home to a qualified buyer. The sale was lost because City Hall said “no” to allowing the home to be converted back to a bed-and-breakfast inn citing the clear rules of Measure G, which were voted in by the citizens of Nevada City in 1994.

Measure G clearly states any B&B’s which revert back to private residences for more than one year are disallowed to be licensed in the future as a B&B.



In the end, the sale fell through for the family who owned the home, and since they had no other buyers, they eventually lost the home to foreclosure. The young family with three small children was forced out of its home. Several other potential buyers were told if the home was purchased it could only be used as a private residence due to the rules outlined in Measure G.

Everything up to this point correctly followed the laws as outlined in Measure G and no one could argue with the rules or the outcome to the family that was foreclosed on. As unfortunate as that outcome was, the laws that existed outlining the rules around B&B’s were on the books for many years prior to their purchasing the old home.




Fast forward a couple of months. The old home was purchased off the court house steps by the Nevada City Treasurer, Andy Howard, with a couple of other investors. Since Mr. Howard currently owns the Emma Nevada House B&B, Mr. Howard fully understood the rules of Measure G at the time of purchasing the Sergeant house.

However, a few short weeks after the purchase by the City Treasurer and his investment group, the topic of converting the old home back to a B&B was brought back to life. Even more disturbing and according to comments openly made by the city planners and on recorded records, the city planners during last Thursday’s open planning meeting made several comments stating the city council had given the planning body the directive to get the Sergeant House back to B&B status without involving specific other homes.

Also, there was a lengthy discussion between the city planners and the city attorney on how to get this done without involving the citizens of Nevada City. The conclusion was they couldn’t legally rezone for one home, but also discussed that the laws covered in Measure G which were voted in by Nevada City residents in 1994 had some vagueness that could be reinterpreted to favor the re-opening of the B&B, and even though Measure G showed clear voter intent, there were holes in the measure that would allow them to eschew the rules and allow this house to become a B&B once again.

A simpler way of outlining what was and continues to be discussed is – City Council has directed to the planning commission to change or reinterpret the laws the citizens of Nevada City have voted in to specifically benefit one person or that person’s investment group.

The treasurer of Nevada City and his investment group are pushing City Hall to specifically reinterpret or change the current laws for their own benefit. The reinterpretation of these laws just a few months ago could have saved a family from losing their home. If it was “no” to this family, it should be “no” to the city treasurer.

If I was the family that was disallowed to sell my home to a qualified buyer and in the end lost my home and found out only a few months later that the city treasurer and his friends were allowed to do exactly what I was not, I would hire an attorney to sue the city for all I could. Without going into a list of reasons that are obvious to most, I’m sure I would win and, sadly, it would be the citizens of Nevada City who would ultimately pay the price for City Hall’s mistake.

Worse than that, the city would once again be viewed as a city that operates as a “Good Ol’ Boys Club,” benefiting their buddies while disregarding the moral and ethical standards of keeping the rules and laws a standard practice equal for all citizens, not just their buddies.

Bob Nienaber lives in Nevada City.


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