Nevada City community pushes back against Old Airport plan |

Nevada City community pushes back against Old Airport plan

John Orona
Staff Writer

Nevada City’s plan for the Old Airport space is on hold and may be going back to the drawing board following criticism from residents who felt excluded from the process.

The initial concept plan prepared by JK Architecture Engineering was presented at the Nevada City Council meeting Wednesday and was based on community meetings which over the last two years wrung out what residents wanted for the 109-acre site two miles northwest of Nevada City.

The plan would include 66 acres of public space on the west side of the property which featured trails with fitness stations, a Nisenan tribute space, a native species grove with an educational element honoring horticulturist Felix Gillet, an open space area including natural playground environments, restrooms and parking spaces. The remaining acreage on the east would be city property housing a 13.6-acre solar array field and the 6.5-acre corporation yard to be fenced in.

Some residents at the meeting who live closest to the project felt they were not adequately involved in the process and should have been notified about the meeting, including president of the Greater Cement Hill Neighborhood Association Uli Paulin.

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“The issue is we’re being ignored in the process so far,” said Paulin, whose organization represents 250 members. “We consider ourselves stakeholders in the process, but we’re here one year later we have not been contacted, not been consulted. We’re frustrated.”

Paulin asked for the council not to ratify any proposal or concept until residents near the site could talk more and provide their input. Other residents felt the concept didn’t reflect what the community had asked for in previous workshops.

Annette Seabury, who also lives in the area, said she too felt left out of the process and was concerned how the project would threaten wildlife and impact evacuation routes, things the community wanted to specifically avoid in their planning suggestions.

“Another concern I’m facing is there’s a lot of wildlife out there,” Seabury said. “I walk those trails every day. I’ve seen bears, I’ve seen a mountain lion, I’ve seen coyotes — my cat was eaten by one — and I applaud that. We need to really respect that.”

Several members of the Nevada City 100% Renewables Committee spoke against the plan for its solar design, which they felt was not large enough, would not yield enough power, was not raised off the ground high enough — as the community said it should make the land beneath the solar panels usable — and was not collaborative with the committee. The committee has been working with the Sierra Business Council on a site proposal that would be used to solicit solar vendors that will be completed by the end of the month.

The council ultimately decided to wait to give staff further instruction on the site, which they described as “lost in translation,” until solar vendors are solicited and the council has more information with which to direct staff.

“The solar farm was one of the priorities of the community (in the planning workshops); that was before the power outage situation and it’s even more critical now,” council member Duane Strawser said. “I’m sorry we didn’t have our solar renewable energy group working on this. This needs to be brought together somehow.”

Community members at the meeting said they would talk with neighbors and community organizations before the next meeting on the airport space.

“I think the big word here is collaboration and I think a lot of us in the neighborhood are feeling as though we had not been included,” Seabury said. “Thank god it’s just a concept and there’s a lot of discussion.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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