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Penn Valley housing plan faces ongoing opposition

by becky trout

Penn Valley Oaks, a 9-acre housing development proposed for the center of Penn Valley, remains stalled before the Nevada County Planning Commission.

In response to criticisms levied by the commissioners and neighbors of the project in June, developer representative Dale Creighton returned before the commission Thursday with a less dense, more conventional subdivision.

Now, developer Casilli Partners proposes 28 houses, three commercial buildings – about 8,800 square feet – and the mandated four affordable attached residences. The houses will be primarily one-story. Previously, Creighton sought to build 73 two-story “miners’ cottages.”

To remain in the $240,000 to $360,000 price range for each home, Creighton cut out some of the open space and trails.

The project faces numerous hurdles. Most significantly, the Penn Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant is at full capacity; Casilli Partners only has permits for 23 wastewater-disposal units.

The developer is on the waiting list for more units. To speed the process, Casilli Partners has offered $30,000 to help pay for a $60,000 study of the plant’s capacity, Creighton said.

To use available sewer capacity, Casilli Partners hopes to put in 19 houses, two of the attached units, and two of the commercial buildings as soon as possible, Creighton said.

Then, when and if additional treatment capacity becomes available, the additional houses and another commercial building would be added, Creighton said.

Commissioners pointed out this process could take 10 to 15 years. They voiced concerns that the empty lot on the property’s west side could look like a construction site for a decade.

Creighton assured them the site would be seeded and any added dirt would be leveled.

In its almost decade-long existence, the project has had numerous incarnations. Just last year, Casilli Partners wanted to build 49 houses priced at about $170,000, with 20,000 square feet of commercial space and a community center. A hotel has also been considered for the site.

Most neighbors remain opposed to the project. Some have said the housing development conflicts with the community’s plan, cuts commercial space, and introduces a suburban development to the “rural” town.

The neighbors aren’t likely to be pleased with Casilli Partners long-term plans, either. In addition to the nine-acre lot, the developer owns a 20-acre parcel abutting Highway 20 on the north side of Squirrel Creek. It has plans to build about 80 houses there once the sewage treatment capacity is made available, Creighton said.For now, however, the first project is destined for at least one more appearance before the Planning Commission.

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