Supervisor Weston discusses high density housing |

Supervisor Weston discusses high density housing

After a nearly two-year-long process, last month the Board of Supervisors approved rezoning a number of parcels in western Nevada County to accommodate higher-density housing.

Staff’s recommendation that the Board approve “Tier 1” sites only was approved, with a few minor changes. Namely, two of three sites identified in Grass Valley are pending further consideration by the City. (“We don’t mind it in our backyard, we just want to pick the backyard.”)

We also opted against rezoning one parcel on Combie Road, near Table Meadow Road, and instead included a parcel closer to Highway 49.

I would like to congratulate the Penn Valley community for its hard work collaborating with Nevada County during the Housing Element Rezone process.

Mike Mastrodonato, president of the Penn Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, said it eloquently in his statement to the Board: “Since notice of this current Housing Element Rezone plan was first received over two years ago, an overwhelming majority of residents — not just Penn Valley and other rural areas, but our county officials as well — saw flaws in this program mandated by the state.

“So much so, that our county officials (this board) were successful in getting the initial number of required units reduced by about half…We applaud your efforts. The county did its job in working with the state, and we as a community have done our job in working with the county (And we thank Mr. Foss and Mr. Barrington for their diligence in working with us.) not just to work through this current requirement, but also to insure that future housing elements do not include the same flaws we have tried to work through to get this current plan finalized.

“Going forward, we do have an opportunity to re-boot the process, and together as a county, and a community, come up with a sound program that can be an acceptable, workable plan.

“…We feel we have made much progress and accomplishment. However, we are left with one concern. It appears that there is opportunity for the County to utilize this completed EIR, which is limited to only the “willing owner” candidate sites identified for rezoning in the report, as a basis for decisions relative to future five-year Housing Element updates.”

Mike is referring to fact that the sites recommended to the Board were selected from a larger pool that was narrowed to only those where the owner was agreeable to the rezone. However, without a willing owner the Board would have had to consider whether to impose eminent domain. No one wants to go there, but hopefully the next Housing Element Update will not need further rezones.

Our County population has been gradually declining, and if these new sites are not developed then we should not have a need to rezone for more low-income housing in the next cycle. Nevertheless, it is clear that when we begin the process for the next Housing Element cycle (2019–2024), we will need to engage the entire community at the earliest opportunity prior to any future discussions on rezoning.

On the matter of low-income housing, a number of residents spoke against the rezone for fear that the change will attract undesirable elements, such as gangs, illegal immigrants or even terrorists. It is important to note that the rezone merely allows higher density housing — up to 16 units per acre— over what is currently allowed, but does not set any limit on the cost of the units.

The State assumes that the market will set the price of such units at lower rates than single family residences. It also does not require these sites to be developed, and there are no development plans at this time for any of the sites.

Let’s remember that if we want to house our adult children, senior citizens, nurses, firefighters, shopkeepers and other valued members of our community, we need to provide housing that can accommodate varying income levels.

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