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Nevada City’s Sugarloaf purchase hits snags

Nevada City’s long-standing dream to buy the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is looking cloudy – county-administered funds may not come through in time.

City Council members will meet 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss alternative ways to use recreation grant money in the event the city’s agreement to buy the 30-acre plot falls through. The meeting will be at City Hall, 317 Broad Street.

For years, Nevada City has eyed the iconic, flat-topped mountain overlooking downtown. Making the land public space would preserve it, potentially as part of a trail network, and guard it from the development that owners have considered for other parts of the mountain.



“You never can tell what could happen in some comprehensive scheme,” said Mayor Robert Bergman. The purchase “is protective in nature.”

The owners’ previous low offer was $1.25 million, but in July, they agreed to a surprisingly low figure – $450,000.




City officials had planned to use $379,000 in state Proposition 40 recreational grant funds, plus $71,000 in county-administered AB 1600 Park and Recreation Mitigation Fees.

In 2004, county supervisors made a motion of intent to allocate AB 1600 funds to buy Sugarloaf, according to the meeting minutes.

But when Nevada City staff inquired about the money this spring, they learned the motion was no longer active and they would need to apply for the funds this winter, for possible distribution in summer 2011.

But even if Nevada City did win that money, it would be too late: The nearly $400,000 in Prop. 40 funds is a use-it-or-lose-it affair, and the deadline for finishing up any Prop. 40-funded projects is March 2011.

City officials asked county supervisors for special consideration on the project because of the deadline.

But supervisors cast doubt on the funding plan, saying the exception would demonstrate favoritism.

“I am concerned that your request will not meet the board’s criteria for AB 1600 grants and would circumvent a competitive process that was created to impart greater fairness in the granting funds,” wrote Chairman Nate Beason, the District 1 supervisor representing Nevada City.

“Almost certainly, such a departure would create a perception of favoritism among other potential applicants and the public at large,” Beason continued.

While Beason said he applauded the city’s efforts to buy open space, he doubted the board would release AB 1600 funding for such a project.

“The marginal utility of acquiring more open space in an area that abounds in open space or other passive recreation opportunities, in reality, creates no practical, effective expansion of recreational opportunities that could justify the expenditure,” he wrote.

Aside from the county funding snag, the Sugarloaf sale also depends on approval from a probate judge; that hearing is set for Sept. 29.

Plan B

Buying Sugarloaf is “absolutely the priority,” Mayor Bergman said. But if funding or legal proceedings stall, Nevada City is considering using funds for the following alternative projects:

• Purchase the home in the middle of Pioneer Park.

• Install an “AquaClimb” climbing wall on the side of the Pioneer Park pool.

• Build an addition to the Nevada County Historical Society’s Railroad Museum.

• Installing a wooden floor in the Great Room of the Miner’s Foundry Cultural Center to allow for activities such as yoga and dance classes.

• Add concrete picnic tables to the upper picnic area at Pioneer Park.

• Improve Penzance Park with a sign and retaining wall the nearly 1-acre lot at the corner of Sacramento and Adams streets.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail mrindels@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4247.


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