Pamela Carter: One woman’s undeniable contributions to Nevada City
Laurie Oberholtzer has been fired as a Nevada City’s planning commissioner by a three-to-two vote of the Nevada City Council. The threesome that voted to remove her gave little reason for their votes. Mayor Duane Strawser, with council members Erin Minett and Daniela Fernandez voted to oust her. Vice Mayor Doug Fleming and council member Gary Petersen dissented.
Fleming cited Oberholtzer’s accomplishments and contributions over many years. Peterson noted the multitude of issues facing the town that far outweighed any missteps that may have occurred.
In light of what just happened, I believe it is important to share some of the great things she has contributed to this city as a planning commissioner, City Council member, mayor and resident.
In 2001 Planning Commissioner Oberholtzer, resident Paul Matson, and the late Bob Wyckoff, Nevada City’s historic preservation officer, prepared a presentation to the county on behalf of the city. The request was for funding from Nevada County to buy Hirschman’s Pond. The Board of Supervisors, in a four-to-one vote, allocated $480,000 to Nevada City from a State Parks and Recreation bond to purchase this former hydraulic diggins. It was an extremely competitive process with groups from all parts of Nevada County working to fund their own projects. Today, Hirschman’s is a popular destination and helps the town retain a rural flavor as our area continues to grow.
In 2007, the Indian Trails subdivision, adjacent to Hirschman’s Pond, was in the works. Laurie worked to save 40 acres of that property, along Highway 49, donated to the city as a mitigation for impacts on the city’s recreational facilities. Today a trail graces that land, connects to the pond trail system, and is popular as well.
Another former mining site, Manzanita Diggins, and its neighboring promontory, Sugarloaf, are important to Nevada City and its small-town atmosphere, look and feel. Sugarloaf is Nevada City’s backdrop.
It took six years of working with the owners and piecing together the funding to pull it off. With a lot of help and perseverance from Laurie, Friends of Sugarloaf was formed with strong support from residents Liz Ely, Paul Matson and the late Charles Woods. Ultimately Nevada City set aside $379,000 of its Proposition 40 funds and the county $250,000 of accrued recreation mitigation funds, in Nevada City’s zone. The county’s allocation later dropped to $71,000 due to an improved purchase price. The Bear Yuba Land Trust loaned some money, to fill the breach until grant funding arrived, and Friends of Sugarloaf ponied up a balance needed of $3,800.
Both Hirschman’s Pond and Sugarloaf would be private property today without her hard work.
Housing is a hot topic these days, and it was Laurie Oberholtzer who helped initiate a requirement that 30% of all new housing developments in town be affordable, mostly through second units.
Laurie has led the charge in working to make sure that when the old HEW property on Willow Valley Road develops, it will be in keeping with the character of the city.
She spearheaded the drive to save Nevada City Elementary School, Nevada City’s oldest and only downtown school. In 2011 and 2017, the Nevada City School District entertained renting it and later, demolishing it for commercial and government use. In both cases, Friends of Nevada City Elementary, which she led, prevailed. Today it continues its role as a school, home to the Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning, a public college prep high school.
This is the short list of her efforts, which are impressive and ongoing, as well as her accomplishments over the past 32 years while volunteering for her town and her community. We owe her a great debt of gratitude. Thank you, Laurie!
Pamela Carter Meek lives in Nevada City.
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