Nevada County Supervisors deny appeal against Loma Rica industrial building
An appeal by neighbors of a proposed 18,700-square-foot industrial building on Loma Rica Drive was denied Tuesday by Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
“I hope it’s clear that we really do try to accommodate different interests,” said Supervisor Nate Beason after the board unanimously voted to turn down the appeal but added several conditions — addressing sound buffers and privacy — for the industrial property that abuts the Wawona Madrono residential development.
“We recognize that we’re next to residential development,” said project engineer Kevin Nelson, representing property owner Kirk Koslin, after three hours of sometimes emotional testimony Tuesday. “We’ll try to be sensitive to that.”
In denying the appeal, Tuesday’s board action upholds a Jan. 8 recommendation for permit approval and approval of a mitigated negative declaration by the Nevada County Planning Commission.
Louise Taylor, president of the Wawona Madrono Homeowners Association, said her board voted to appeal the Planning Commission decision, citing potential loss of their rural lifestyle, property values, peace and quiet, trees and greenbelt separation.
Taylor was one of about 20 neighbors at the public hearing on the appeal.
“The (HOA) board agreed that it was imperative to appeal the decision because abutment of the industrial lot against a residential area did not appear to be taken into account by the planners,” Taylor said in a detailed presentation to the board on Tuesday.
After lengthy debate, supervisors added a requirement for an 8-foot-high sound wall — instead of a 6-foot-high wall as approved by the Planning Commission — along the southeast corner of the building. They also added a condition that the building owners require any tenants to keep noise levels under 55 decibels at the property line.
However, despite strong protests by the neighbors, supervisors declined to require the developer to reduce the size of the building, decrease the building height, move the building further west, remove glass windows on the east side or extend the sound wall the entire length of the east side of the building.
Neighbors said the board was violating its own general plan.
“It’s written in the Loma Rica Drive Industrial Area Plan, which is part of the county general plan, that any industrial development adjacent to a residential area should have special precautions,” said Wawona Madrono resident Sterling Bailey, a physics professor at Sierra College and a longtime mechanical and sound engineer. “The plans as proposed are inconsistent with an industrial lot adjacent to a residential area.”
Bailey said sound waves were able to “bend” and therefore would not be buffered by a lower grade of the industrial building, as presented during the hearing.
“The concept that a change in grade would help attenuate the noise is not borne out in physics,” he said.
Taylor said the homeowners association met with Nelson after the Planning Commission hearing to seek adjustments to the plans. She said although the developer agreed to change the color of the building’s walls and restrict tenant operations to weekdays, he declined other demands such as reducing the size, height or location of the building.
“You can see the beautiful greenbelt we enjoy upon entering and departing from our neighborhood,” Taylor told the board, pointing to photos of the site of the proposed development. “Few homeowners upon purchase of their property recognized that in the event the industrial lot next to us were constructed, this greenbelt would be demolished.”
Nelson said the plans were identical to those previously approved by the Planning Commission in 2006. The previous approval had expired, but the plans were resubmitted virtually unchanged, he said.
He said the building would be built on speculation, with the actual configuration dependent on the tenants who sign a lease. Up to 10 tenant “bays” are allowed in the plans.
“We knew it would be developed,” said adjacent resident Kim Crevoiserat, who, with her family, has lived in their “dream home” next door to the industrial site for the past 2 1/2 years. “But we understood that the Loma Rica Drive Industrial Area Plan’s Number 1 goal was fostering a rural quality of life.
“The Number 2 goal was fostering a quality environment,” Crevoiserat said.
“I fear that the Planning Commission defaulted on those promises,” she added. “They gave Mr. Koslin a blank check to make as much money as possible, without regard to the impact on residents.”
She said she feared losing her family’s privacy, as well as being subject to constant noise from industrial activities.
Supervisor Dan Miller called Crevoiserat’s noise comments “disingenuous,” since the neighborhood is close to Nevada County Airport, which has heavy noise during fire season from Cal Fire Grass Valley Air Attack Station planes and from other small planes during the rest of the season.
Crevoiserat disputed that characterization, saying the county airport noise was minimal most of the time.
“The plane noise doesn’t dominate our lives usually,” she said. “I don’t want to have to listen to noise seven days a week coming down on my property.”
Taylor said she was especially concerned that the plans shown by the developer did not show all 54 trees that would be removed. Supervisors asked county staff to clarify the landscape plans so that it was clear which trees would be removed and how many.
Nelson said that he would adhere to Taylor’s concerns about removing highly flammable trees, such as manzanita, while replanting other varieties.
But neighbor Bob Burbridge said the replacement trees would be “in 15 gallon buckets and only an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. I will never see more than sticks, unless I come to visit from my nursing home.”
He added there would be “no way to police the noise pollution,” he said.
“If they want to run a jackhammer in the middle of the night, there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.
Nelson said he and Koslin tried to listen to neighbors’ concerns.
“We made our concessions as best we could,” he told the supervisors. “As far as the noise, we’re looking at the worst-case scenario, of four to five auto-body shops in there.
“Is that realistic? I don’t think so,” Nelson said. “It could be just one or two tenants with a warehouse or office space — and no noise.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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