Store proposal stirs fears of traffic jam on Litton Hill |

Store proposal stirs fears of traffic jam on Litton Hill

A shopping center anchored by the BriarPatch Co-op may soon join the schools and businesses that already cap Grass Valley’s Litton Hill.

The 16,000-square-foot co-op and three smaller stores could add scores of vehicles to the hill, creating a jam that will trouble the area, Grass Valley Planning Commission Commissioner Lisa Swarthout told developer Greg Francis Tuesday morning.

Vehicles from the proposed 20,000-square-foot center would pour out onto Sierra College Drive, joining throngs of high school and college students.

“Traffic is going to be a huge issue. Not necessarily (the) volume but from a safety (perspective),” said Swarthout, a candidate for the Grass Valley City Council.

But Francis and BriarPatch General Manager Paul Harton don’t believe the traffic will create too much congestion.

BriarPatch’s slowest hours are in the mid-afternoon, coinciding favorably with class dismissal times.

And the project might even decrease traffic, Harton said. Hungry office types and students might lunch at the nearby BriarPatch rather than driving to the Brunswick Basin or downtown Grass Valley, he said.

Harton and 98 percent of the co-op’s 1,900 members – according to a member survey – hope a traffic compromise can be reached. After searching for a home for more than six years, they could actually move into more spacious quarters in early 2006.

“We are bursting at our seams,” Harton said. More parking and more cash registers are desperately needed at the co-op’s small Joerschke Drive store, its home since 1993.

Everything about the new store would be bigger. It would have a very large produce section, an extensive deli, offices, a larger warehouse, and a community room, Harton said.

And the co-op’s 60-person staff would swell to almost 100, Harton said.

The move could have been done four years ago, he said. The 28-year-old co-op considered moving to Plaza Drive in the Glenbrook Basin in 2000, but didn’t.

“It wasn’t the right project for us,” Harton said.

Then, in early 2002, a co-op member called Francis, the developer of Litton Business Park, and asked if he could house BriarPatch Co-op.

“It was just a fluke,” Francis said.

Francis said he had been hoping to build shops of some sort in the business park.

Small stores that support businesses, such as a delis or copy shops, are allowed within the business park. Due to the size of the co-op, however, Francis will need to apply to change the General Plan, persuading the City Council that a retail center, rather than an office building, will better suit the city.

The project will come before the Planning Commission Oct. 19.

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