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New rules to assist growth

Kerana M. Todorov

The Grass Valley City Council will likely determine how fast the city will grow within the next couple of years.

But it won’t be alone.

The Local Agency Formation Commission – the agency that approves boundary changes in the county – will have its say as well.

New state rules obligate LAFCO to evaluate how water, sewer and other municipal services are provided, and what happens when a city annexes county land.

Can the city provide the required municipal services? Can the county afford to lose sales tax revenues from the annexed properties and continue to provide library services?

These will be some of the likely questions before LAFCO.

Four properties, 175 to 760 acres in size, are now slated for annexation and development into Grass Valley.

The new state rules could slow the pace of these annexations, predicts Patti Ingram, Grass Valley’s new mayor and a LAFCO commissioner. “I think if we can’t provide those (municipal) services, LAFCO may not allow these annexations,” Ingram said. The decision is up to LAFCO, she said.

Supervisor Peter Van Zant, a LAFCO commissioner, said he does not know how the new rules will play out.

“Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t know,” he said. “Because it’s all new.”

S.R. Jones, a LAFCO executive officer, said the state-mandated municipal service review studies provide a basis for decision-making.

“The big thing here is to assure that the services are available,” she said. “It’s quality assurance.”

The municipal review studies will study western Nevada County and the Truckee area separately.

LAFCO rules apply to all jurisdictions, even those with modest annexation ambitions like Nevada City’s.

Nevada City last week submitted a draft of its sphere of influence, which shows what properties could be annexed within the next five years – such as the new 49er Fire Protection District station off Highway 49, a commercial lot on Gold Flat Road and a few other properties.

Under a new state rule, LAFCO cannot approve the plan until the municipal service reviews are completed. That means the city will not be able to annex the properties unless LAFCO makes an exception. (Grass Valley’s sphere of influence was approved before the state legislature approved the new rule two years ago.)

LAFCO has seven voting members and four alternate members who represent the county, the cities, the special districts and the general public. Two LAFCO commissioners – Supervisor Izzy Martin and Don McCormack, a former member of the Truckee Town Council – lost their re-election bids Nov. 5 and will be replaced.

The county, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Truckee and the county’s special districts contribute to LAFCO’s $365,000 annual budget.

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