Our View: The story Nevada County should write next
There are two stories to tell about Nevada County.
Our county is a rural paradise, an escape from the stresses of the Bay Area or Orange County. There’s low traffic, little crime, a vibrant arts scene, amazing outdoor opportunities and vistas that beat most of the competition.
Nevada County also is a place where you can’t afford a home. There’s barely any new development, a scarcity of high-speed internet connections, a masochistic level of NIMBYism and a phalanx of sales tax revenue running as fast as it can to Auburn, Roseville and beyond.
We as a community have to change if we want a better story.
Nevada County isn’t growing. According to U.S. census numbers, we had 98,877 people as of July 2015. Compare that to 98,748 people in April 2010.
That’s 0.1 percent growth.
Placer County, just to our south, had 375,391 people as of July 2015, and has experienced 7.7 percent growth between 2010 and 2015.
The cries of Nevada County residents who abhor any change are deafening. They don’t want to be like Placer County or Roseville. They are, however, apparently more than willing to shop there.
A strong contingent of locals refuse to allow any new development here, helping ensure our sales tax dollars continue to leave the county. They don’t want the Dorsey Marketplace. They pushed away a brewery in Grass Valley’s Whispering Pines Corporate Community.
A group opposed to change even helped defeat last year’s property tax measure for the Higgins Fire District. A 36-year-old property tax now remains intact thanks to the failed vote. What Higgins’ district residents got in return was one less fire station, sky high insurance rates and longer response times.
Now there’s a group opposed to Measure B, the local ballot initiative that, if passed, would enable the Nevada Joint Union High School District to issue up to $47 million in bonds for upgrades and improvements.
One member of our editorial board called the district’s need “desperate.” You can see the dry rot in one school portable.
Is this the story we want our kids to hear?
This problem isn’t about two conflicting narratives. It doesn’t boil down to you’re either for or against the Dorsey Marketplace or whether you support the school district’s bond measure.
Those are the symptoms of a bigger problem: Nevada County needs to change or it will wither.
Our residents expect a certain level of services from their government. They must pay taxes to get those services.
Our population, however, isn’t growing. The same amount of tax revenue today won’t pay for the same level of services it did years ago. A lack of new development also means no new tax dollars for local government.
Or, at least, our local government. Auburn looks just fine.
We don’t need to approve every project some developer proposes for our county, but we can’t continue to outright dismiss all of them. We can’t oppose every new tax, especially when the money supports essential services such as police and fire.
Following a path of complete opposition will lead to more homes that can’t be insured. It will lead to fewer police officers on our streets and firefighters in their stations.
It will lead to a small, rural, depressed community that refuses to work together for its own good.
That’s a story we need to stop writing.
The weekly Our View column represents the viewpoint of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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