‘No’ to second growth measure | TheUnion.com

‘No’ to second growth measure

Fearing “ballot box planning,” the Grass Valley City Council formally opposed the Limited Growth Initiative Tuesday night.

It is the second voter initiative to qualify for the November ballot, written as an alternative to the Managed Growth Initiative ” proposed earlier by the slow-growth Rural Quality Coalition and Citizens Concerned About Traffic.

“The citizens of Grass Valley elected us to make decisions, and I think this just sets us up for endless controversy,” said councilman Chauncey Poston just before he and fellow members Lisa Swarthout, Dan Miller and Jan Arbuckle voted 4-0 to condemn the newcomer.

Mayor Mark Johnson excused himself from the discussion and vote because he sponsored the plan as a private citizen along with volunteer leader Dennis Cassella and Peggy Levine, a member of the city’s Historic Commission. The trio wrote the limited growth plan.

The council earlier opposed the Managed Growth Initiative on similar grounds, saying it would force a vote on most changes to the land-use element of the city’s 2020 General Plan. Opponents and council members also fear it would drive development out into the county, causing the sprawl its authors are intending to stop.

City Administrator Dan Holler and Community Development Director Joe Heckel presented an oppositional report to the Limited Growth Initiative, urging the council to not endorse it.

The mayor’s initiative would limit the number of housing units to 2,820 through 2020 and put any boundary changes or city annexations to a vote as well, Heckel said.

Public Works Director Tim Kiser said it was his opinion the mayor’s initiative could produce a situation like that around Auburn, where the city lost the ability to control growth that eventually shifted into Placer County and north on Highway 49.

“If the growth doesn’t occur somewhere in the city, it will occur elsewhere,” said Miller. “In some ways, it could destroy the city’s ability to economically survive.”

The Limited Growth Initiative also would require a fiscal impact report on projects of more than 100 units, Heckel said. That could skew the city’s commitment to affordable housing, because the reports could show those units have a negative impact on city funds, according to Heckel and Arbuckle.

The report also outlined the potential monetary impacts of repeated growth elections and possible legal challenges against the city. State housing grants also could be lost because they are not given to communities with growth restrictions, Heckel said.

“Ballot box planning doesn’t work,” said Vice Mayor Swarthout. “It creates a divisive environment that make people not want to live there.”

All four council members indicated the Limited Growth Initiative had good intentions, but feared “the devil in the details,” as Poston put it.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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