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Officials wary of real estate market decline

Laura Brown

Building affordable housing, updating sewer systems and roads, and bracing for shrinking real estate revenue are all challenges ahead for Nevada County, leading area officials said Friday.

County and city officials painted both rosy and grim pictures during a luncheon the Nevada County Business Association hosted and held in Grass Valley’s new Holiday Inn Express.

Affordable housing is an issue for Grass Valley, where 60 percent of the population is renting, said Chauncey Poston, Grass Valley city councilman.

“We’re going to have to look at better ways to get people into homes,” Poston said.

Last year, 52 new houses were built in Grass Valley, Poston said. There are 570 residences approved by the city, but which have not been built – enough stock to supply new buyers for the next five to seven years.

“We’ve hit a wall economically,” Poston said.

Sales tax, car sales, construction and real estate all are down, while wages and benefits for police officers, firefighters and other county employees are going up.

Infrastructure is decrepit, roadwork such as the Dorsey Drive interchange needs funding, the Newmont Mine and other wastewater problems have yet to be resolved, and the recruitment of a new city administrator lay ahead for Grass Valley, Poston said.

On the flip side, a number of local businesses have expanded and show promise for the city’s economy, including Hills Flat Lumber, the Holiday Inn Express, Moule Paint and Glass, Weaver Auto and Truck Center and the soon-to-open BriarPatch market.

Jail reaching capacity

John Spencer, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, said the general outlook for the county is good, but he identified workforce housing, wastewater treatment, methamphetamine use prevention and treatment for addicts as top priorities.

Also, the county jail is nearing its capacity and will need to expand, Spencer said.

The Union reported recently that the county is growing by a sluggish 0.4 percent, and Spencer acknowledged the slowing real estate market. He said exploding costs for land, materials and fuel have made it difficult to build housing that working people can afford.

An expanded transit system, a business assistance loan program and a new prescription drug card program met the county’s customer service obligations, Spencer said.

Highway 49 is safer with the addition of rumble strips and a larger presence of highway patrolmen. A new cellular telephone tower will generate an added $56,4000 in revenue and $2 million worth of grants have poured into the county, Spencer said.

He praised the economic achievements of the Loma Rica industrial area and Nevada County Airport and a new agriculture sign and farm stand ordinance recently adopted by the supervisors.

Nevada City, Truckee

Nevada City Mayor Steve Cottrell touted his city’s sales tax measure passed last fall to fix city roads, a re-organization at City Hall, negotiations with Deer Creek Park II developers resulting in approval of a smaller housing tract and the opening of the Nevada City Tech Center as triumphs.

But more work needs to be done to build affordable housing, address homelessness and reduce the drug problem.

“We can’t just keep giving it lip service,” Cottrell said.

Mayor Richard Anderson of Truckee said the town’s property tax revenue has been growing by 13.4 percent a year – unlike the rest of the county – and the median home price is $800,000. Several affordable housing projects and a Sierra College extension campus are planned for the region.

“We want our workers to set down roots and support the county,” Anderson said.


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion .com or call 477-4231.

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