Nevada City removes member from Planning Commission
Nevada City council removes member from planning commission
The Nevada City Council on Wednesday voted 3-to-2 to dismiss Laurie Oberholtzer from the city’s Planning Commission.
Mayor Duane Strawser, along with Council members Erin Minett and Daniela Fernandez, voted to terminate Oberholtzer, while Vice Mayor Doug Fleming, who appointed her, and Council member Gary Petersen opposed.
Oberholtzer said she was surprised this could happen.
“I’m not anti-growth. I’m pro-affordable housing. I co-authored our affordable housing ordinance, the strongest in the state,” said Oberholtzer.
Oberholtzer said several years ago the city planner introduced a cottage ordinance to allow increased density. Then last year a lobbyist recommended to the city planner to make a major expansion of the ordinance. The Planning Commission discussed the issue at a later meeting, but had some concerns and asked the city planner to provide more information.
Oberholtzer said the proposal before the city planner was to expand residential high density zones from 16 dwelling units an acre to 32.
According to Oberholtzer, the city has tools allowing for mixed use and accessory dwelling units.
“It took me by surprise later when a City Council member said some council members did not like how the discussion went,” Oberholtzer said.
After an Aug. 25 council meeting, Oberholtzer said she was informed by a council member that the council would require expansion of the cottage ordinance to support future growth plans. That’s mainly why the council decided to place the issue of her continued service on the Planning Commission.
Council members favoring her removal dispute this account. Minett said that while some people say it is about the ordinance, it’s actually about issues on the Planning Commission.
“For me, it’s really … I want a Planning Commission that actually works together,” said Minett. “The fact (is) we keep losing commissioners because they don’t want to work with Commissioner Oberholtzer. It’s not a good thing. And I do want to say Laurie’s done an amazing job. But the city is struggling, and to have controversy with the commission is really sad and it isn’t working the way it should be.”
Fernandez said she honored Oberholtzer’s efforts to make the city what it is today. However, she added that her vote was for a city that welcomes smart growth and a modern world economy.
“We heard (public comment). We’re not doing enough for people in our community, and I see this person as a barrier to that.”
Fleming praised Oberholtzer as one of the most experienced planners in the community. However, he added that there were complaints from project applicants that Oberholtzer was discourteous.
“Staff agreed, she hasn’t done anything that merits firing,” said Fleming. “Yet some say the issue isn’t about Laurie, but affordable housing … and how we get there.”
Petersen said the council’s vote lessens the viability of city organizations in ways the council has failed to contemplate.
“This action will divide the community in so many ways. That’s unnecessary and harmful,” he added.
Strawser said the issue wasn’t about the cottage ordinance.
“There’s a long list of things building toward this and I think all parties involved had plenty of opportunity to remedy this,” he said. “And it came to this point and there’s no other option … So, I’m calling for a vote.”
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com
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