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Officials: Nevada County housing market stalls development of local projects (INTERACTIVE MAP)

Teresa Yinmeng Liu
Staff Writer
Site for Loma Rica project in Grass Valley.
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union


Sierra Terrace — Approved by the city of Grass Valley in 2004 for 24 dwelling units and four apartments. A lot of the units are attached units.

This development is located to the west of the intersection of East Berryhill Drive and East Main Street in Grass Valley.

Makiah Woods — The Grass Valley City Council approved this project in October 2005. This project features single-family residences, many of which are attached. The 9.25-acre project would be constructed on a vacant land on Brunswick Road, across from Town Talk Road.

Loma Rica Ranch Project — The 452-acre mixed-used development sits approximately 1 1/2 miles east of downtown Grass Valley and about a half mile south of the Glenbrook Basin. It was approved for 700 units in 2011, but city officials have been discussing this project for decades. According to its developer, Castle Companies, the first phase of this development, the 81.6-acre neighborhood located at the western sector of the project, will be built in summer 2017.

Gold Country Village — This project features 106 senior housing apartments and 13 single-family dwelling units. It was approved in 2009 and would have been located on East Main Street. City officials said this project might go away, because the developer for this property moved the project to Bennett Street.

Gold Country Village 2 — City council members approved this 120-unit housing development on Bennett Street in 2012. The project targets senior residents with limited income. The Gold Country Village project included two phases. Eighty units have already been built. City officials said work is expected to begin for the remaining 40 units.

Wolf Creek Village — This cohousing housing complex features one- and two-bedroom condo-like homes for singles and couples, and a 4,000-square-foot common area for community gatherings, cooperative activities and guest accommodations. It was approved for 40 dwelling units in 2007. Officials said the first 32 units have already been constructed, the second phase has a combination of seven family homes and the rest are attached units that could either be rental or condominium depending on what the property owner wants to do.

Berriman Ranch Project — Approved in 2012, the 121-acre property and 30 new single-family residence development is located near the southern boundary of Grass Valley. The homes, all one-story with two-car garages, will range in size from 1,600 to 2,000 square feet. Thirty units of this development might be moving forward soon.

314 Railroad Avenue — Applicant Sutton Way Partners, LLC asked to modify the 49er Family Fun Park. Plans includd the construction of two buildings totaling 27,596 square feet and the conversion of two existing buildings. The plans called for the conversation of a 4,500 square foot existing building for office use. The building is now used for commercial arcade/game. The second existing 1,430 square feet one-story building would be converted into a 3,030 square foot, two-story building. Developers proposed to use the first floor for arcade/game and the second floor for storage.

Ridge Meadows— City council approved the 49 residential lots of this development in 2007. When Towne Development of Sacramento purchased the property in 2014, the project was scaled back to 37 lots. The 9.2-acre site on Ridge Road is near the intersection of Upper Slate Creek Road. The 37 single-family units feature single-family detached homes. Officials expect this project to break ground this year.

Ridge Village — This 49-lot sub-division off Ridge Road was approved in 2007. The lots range from 3,200 square feet to 8,700 square feet. The property measures 10.6 acres and is located on the north side of Ridge Road near the Hughes Road curve.

Village at South Auburn — This 10.83-acre mixed-use project, located on the northeast side of the South Auburn and Whiting Street intersection, was approved by the city council in 2003. Steve Elder Development proposed the 49-unit subdivision. During the economic downturn property was sold to several different owners. City officials expect this project to go away. The developer envisioned the site to include affordable apartments and duplex townhomes.

Milco III — This 7.73-acre property is located south of Whispering Pine Lane and west of Crown Point Circle. The project includes three single-story light industrial buildings totaling 57,315 square feet. All three buildings will each consist of a warehouse and an office.

The parcels needed to be annexed into the city for sewer, fire and other municipal services. It underwent a conceptual review by the city Planning Commission in 2008. In 2011, the city adopted a Resolution of Application to initiate the annexation.

Victoria Grove —This 72-unit project was approved in 2004. Some of the units are attached single-family residences. Most of the homes will be moderately priced for working, middle-income people.

Town Talk Village — This 11-unit off Town Talk Road was approved in 2005.

South Creek Village —This 24-unit project, located off Bennett Street, was approved in 2007. It was filed by Dave Ferguson and calls for multifamily housing on a 4.46-acre land.

Iris Lane Project — City officials approved this project in 2008. It features 12 units and is located off Doris Drive.

— Teresa Yinmeng Liu

Over the last 13 years, the Grass Valley City Council has approved the construction of 14 residential projects, but only a few of those developments have actually gotten off the ground.

Meanwhile, western Nevada County realtors say they’re dealing with an extremely tight housing market that has produced one of the lowest inventories they’ve seen in recent years.

According to a list of residential projects provided to The Union by city staff, the majority of the projects are in the conceptual phase, with only three —Ridge Meadows, Gold Country Village and Berriman Ranch —potentially starting construction this year, city officials said.

City officials and local experts point to the recent recession as the reason many of the projects have not moved forward.

Community Development Director Tom Last said the projects were approved in the mid-2000s, right before the economy crashed and stalled construction statewide for several years.

“That is probably one of the biggest reasons why many of these projects never get built,” Last said. “That is what (developers) told us, the economy, the conditions aren’t right to start this project.”

But there are signs that some of the developments are once again picking up speed, starting with Ridge Meadows, a cluster of 37 single-family homes being developed by Towne Development of Sacramento on a 9.2-acre site on Ridge Road.

The property, which was first purchased by Ridge Road Associates in 2007, sat idle for seven years before Towne Development purchased it in 2014. Though the original application, submitted by Ridge Road Associates, was approved for 49 units, Towne Development scaled the project back to 37 units. Last said home construction is set for later this year, although land development has already begun.

Other projects are moving forward, yet timetables for construction are not as clear. Gold Country Village, a 120-unit affordable senior housing project planned on a 5.4-acre lot off Bennett Street, was approved in 2012. City officials said the developers have built the first 80 units, and are expected to begin constructing the remaining 40 units.

Another project city officials see activity ahead for development is Berriman Ranch, a 121-acre project abutting the southern boundary of Grass Valley. Council members approved 30 single-family residences on this property in 2010.

In addition, the developer of the Loma Rica project, a 452-acre mixed-use development that includes units as diverse as single-family homes, apartment complexes, multi-family units and farms, is looking to start construction on the first phase of the project in summer 2017.

But officials said construction plans for those three projects aren’t final and several other approved developments don’t yet have a time frame attached, including the 49 single-family home Makiah Woods project approved by the city in 2005 and the 72-unit Victoria Grove project approved by the city in 2004.

City Manager Bob Richardson said the ball to move forward is in developers’ court.

“They all have the authority to, but now it’s entirely their decisions: whether they do it, when they do it or how they do it,” said Richardson.

Steve Garrett of Castle Companies, who represents the developer of the Loma Rica project, said a combination of factors will determine whether the project moves forward.

“The market conditions, the cost of the infrastructure, the cost to build the homes, what the consumers can afford — you have to have all those things working together well in order to get a large scale project like Loma Rica started,” he said.


But in some cases, the decision to start a project up again doesn’t just rest with one developer. Last said that during the financial crisis, some developers were forced to sell their properties to multiple owners, which makes it more difficult to execute the original plan because the owner of each segment of property needs to approve the original vision.

One example of a project that sees such fragmentation as a consequence of the economic downturn is the South Auburn Village project, which was one of the first mixed-use developments approved in Grass Valley. The 10.83-acre project located on South Auburn Street was proposed by Steve Elder Development and approved by officials in 2003. According to the website of Bisnett Design Associates, the project designer, the development would have included retail space, central plaza, affordable apartments and duplex townhomes.

Last said the property’s title is now under the names of five or six property owners.

“In reality that project will probably go away,” he said.

Greg Bulanti, president of the Nevada County Association of Realtors, said it takes a strong economy and a strong housing market to spur development.

“The developers and builders are not going to build, unless they can make a profit,” said Bulanti.

That wasn’t happening in Nevada County during recession or immediately following the recession because there wasn’t a huge demand for homes. Homes were depreciating in value, making them harder to sell, Bulanti said. Also, Baby Boomers, a large portion of homeowners in the area, weren’t looking to trade up to larger homes the way younger homebuyers do.

Now things have changed, Bulanti said. There is a higher demand for homes, partially because the economy is recovering and people have more money to spend. There is also such a low inventory of homes on the market that home prices are increasing, Bulanti said. Those are the conditions that could potentially draw developers back to Nevada County, he said.

“We need more housing,” Bulanti said. “There is no question about it.”

Garrett said he expects developers will decide to bring projects back because they see such a change in economic conditions.

“The market recovers, there is pent up demands for housing in Grass Valley, and you have good working relationship with Grass Valley,” Garrett said.

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please email tliu@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4236.

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