Nevada County pursues fines for Penn Valley tree-cutting at Gateway Center
Nevada County has denied an appeal from a developer who was fined $35,700 for cutting down an alleged 40 trees at a Penn Valley shopping center.
However, staff for the developer, Sacramento-based Ethan Conrad Properties Inc., dispute Nevada County’s version of the events and oppose the fines.
“I think we’re being mischaracterized,” said Chris Porter, the firm’s director of property manager. “No one ever told us we couldn’t cut down any trees.”
County officials, including Supervisor Hank Weston and Planning Director Brian Foss, have both said they specifically told Conrad’s representatives that tree-cutting was not allowed prior to a Feb. 21-23 incident at the Gateway Center on Pleasant Valley Road where about 40 trees were chopped down. A contractor for Conrad has claimed that only 18 to 20 trees were felled.
“The county maintains its position that they were given direction not to cut down trees, said Gregory Shaffer, program manager of Nevada County’s Code Compliance Division.
Shaffer said Conrad earlier this month filed for an in-house citation review — a first-level appeal — which was processed and subsequently dismissed March 18 by staff, upholding the fines.
Conrad has until April 2 to request a second, higher-level, administrative citation review before a county hearings officer, Shaffer said.
Even if he requests a second appeal, Shaffer said Conrad must now also pay fines of $35,806 — $106 was added as an inspection fee. If Conrad prevails in the review, the fines will be returned. If he chooses not to file a second appeal or if the appeal is again denied, the fines will be due, plus an $150 administrative fee, Shaffer said.
“We do have provisions for a hardship waiver,” Shaffer said. “I can’t speak to Conrad’s situation as to whether he would be eligible for that.”
Porter said the firm was in the process of preparing a revised landscape plan and would be submitting it to the county as per regulations.
Porter said the landscaping plan was complex because it seeks to avoid prior problems, such as trees encroaching on the septic system, busting up concrete pathways or curbing visibility. In addition, he said the plan will correct the original shopping center landscape plan, crafted when the Gateway Center opened in 1988.
“The plans said there were supposed to be trees planted in the back,” he said. “They never were.”
According to Shaffer, the preliminary revised landscape plan filed by Conrad was not satisfactory.
“If progress is not made, we’ll have to consider additional enforcement,” Shaffer said.
Nevada County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green said her office was helping to coordinate the case with Shaffer and the others involved.
“We’re continuing to prosecute the citations,” she said. “We’re continuing to work to bring him (Conrad) into compliance.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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