Disappointed with Grass Valley Planning Commission | TheUnion.com

Disappointed with Grass Valley Planning Commission

My recent attendance at the Sept. 15 Grass Valley Planning Commission meeting left me very disappointed with their past and present performance. The agenda item that I was interested in was titled: Tentative Subdivision Map Amendment Application (15PLN-14) for Berriman Ranch approved by the Planning Commission on Oct. 14, 2010 and City Council on Dec. 14, 2010.

The applicant was proposing the removal of a pedestrian path along the northern and western property boundaries and removal of Open Space Lots A, B, & C. So why was the applicant requesting these changes and more importantly —Why were they being considered on a project that had been approved five years ago?

It turns out that the pedestrian path connected to an area at the back of Kmart and the property owner was not willing to allow the connection. It is inconceivable to me that the process for approving developments does not ensure that all roads, paths and trails connect to a public right of way or to another property where an appropriate easement is in place. No project should ever be permitted without all connection points being thoroughly verified.

A second point raised by the developer was that the proposed path looked down into the Gazebos development and property owners were concerned about people looking in their windows. So why didn’t the developer investigate this back in 2010 during the design? Did someone turn a blind eye, knowing that they could get away with a “whoopsie” and that the Planning Commission would be very understanding and let them get away with it? And what about the open space lots? Oh, the developer determined that potential residents didn’t want a Homeowners Association, so there goes the open space — I still haven’t figured out that connection, but sure enough the Planning Commission determined that this too was OK.

Is anyone wondering why I’m disappointed? There were some planning commissioners who had never been to the site of this development. Wouldn’t you think that if someone wants to represent the community in something as important as approving future developments, they would insist on a guided tour of a site along with obtaining detailed information on every aspect that impacts the quality of life?

Intentional or not, the developer is successfully pulling off a “bait and switch.” The development was approved with a trail and open space and later these are changed. Without the trail connection there is no potential access to retail, recreation or other neighborhood developments.

This would make it like an old Roseville sprawl subdivision map. The amended development does not fit the spirit and policy in the current General Plan. This must not be allowed to happen in the future. City staff and the Planning Commission need to get their feet on the ground, conduct a thorough review of all aspects of a development and when it is finally approved, there must be no possibility of making oversight changes later. What’s approved gets implemented!

From a big picture perspective, Grass Valley has the 2020 General Plan. It contains nice statements about: “preserving, protecting, maintaining and enhancing the quality of life we value in Grass Valley …,” “setting aside environmentally sensitive areas, preserving open space; parks and nature trail developments …,” “Neighborhoods will not be isolated residential islands, but will be connected to commercial areas by a network of streets, lanes, trails, sidewalks and paths.”

I’d like to suggest that the Planning Commission make a copy of this document, to keep on their coffee tables for reference the next time that a development is submitted for approval or a change is requested.

Ray Bryars lives in Nevada City.

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