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Olympia Gardens, meters at issue

To finally convert the Sutton Way Olympia Garden Apartments complex into condominiums, all owners Alan Kilborn and Alan Brant must now do is install individual water meters on each of the 44 units.

Sounds simple enough, and most agree it would encourage people to conserve water, but Kilborn says it will cost them more than $200,000 to do so ” a burden that would ultimately be passed down to the buyer, who would more than likely be a first-time homeowner or a lower-income family.

“I am struggling with a decision; this may cost us several hundred thousand dollars to separate those pipes, it may take us right out of the realm of conversion,” Kilborn said. Kilborn, a part-time police officer who, along with Brant, see this conversion as an opportunity to help working class citizens enter Nevada County’s expensive housing market.



In a city struggling to keep up with state affordable housing requirements ” not to mention local demands for workforce housing ” the increase of $7,000 to $10,000 per unit is something to think about. Kilborn said he did not know how much the units would sell for, but, according to DataQuick.com, a real estate data tracking company, the median sale price for a home was $393,500 in Grass Valley for November 2005.

City policy requires that 20 percent of the units are required to be set aside for low- to moderate-income residents, said Grass Valley Planning Director Tom Last.




But Planning Commission Chair Gloria Hyde said she questions whether allowing Kilborn to forgo individualized meters is OK with state requirements, which says condos must have individual meters unless there is an undue hardship.

Kilborn said the price is high for Olympia Garden because the contractor hired would have to break through several walls of drywall and detangle numerous feet of plumbing. And while it might help residents who buy a condo save some money on their water bill ” Kilborn estimates about $100 per month for the entire complex would be saved ” he wonders whether that is worth the price.

The cost of installing individual meters was waived by the city of Monterey for a condo conversion for just that reason in April, according to minutes from the planning commission meeting, but Hyde says citizens have a right to know how much their bills will be.

Kilborn said he plans to return to the city to ask for a waiver of the requirement before moving ahead with conversion plans.

Hyde, who staunchly opposed the idea of a waiver back in June, said Thursday she has not changed her mind.

“It was just a terrible idea and I got support,” she said. The alternative would be to have the bill for the entire complex managed by the condominium’s homeowners association and every unit would pay the same price.

Hyde also questions whether Olympia Garden should even be converted into condominiums, saying “in general, it is my belief that apartments which are designed for apartments should not be converted. They don’t have the kind of amenities that places designed for condos have.”

This includes private space ” of which Olympia Garden has little, except for a small communal area that is “maybe a place for a picnic table,” she said.

Some have raised concerns during the summer meeting that the conversion would limit available affordable units, but Hyde said that idea was refuted by local real estate agents who said there was an adequate supply.

Kilborn said that his current renters would have the first option to buy a unit ” a requirement he would have fulfilled regardless, because they already know the area and the property, he said.

State law also requires Kilborn to give his tenants 120 days notice if he chooses to move forward with the conversion plans.


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