If we can’t stem growth, we must build infrastructure | TheUnion.com

If we can’t stem growth, we must build infrastructure

In percentage terms, Nevada County was the 10th fastest growing county in the state during 2001, the state Department of Finance estimated a few days ago.

That’s somewhat alarming to the large majority of county residents who hope the county will stay the same as it was when they decided to live here. But it’s equally troubling that the population growth of recent years has been accompanied by minimal development of the infrastructure necessary to support greater population.

The state estimates Nevada County’s population at the start of this year stood at 95,300. (That’s a figure that includes the fast-growing Truckee region as well as western Nevada County.) The county’s growth rate of 2.4 percent, the state said, compares with a population growth rate of 3.9 percent in neighboring Placer County – that’s the fastest growing county in California – and a decline of 2 percent in Sierra County, our neighbor to the north.

Because it’s unlikely the community will agree to randomly select residents of Nevada County and tell them to go back where they came from – an idea which has some appeal so long as it doesn’t apply to us or our friends – the best way to deal with the continued population growth is this: Be sure our public and private facilities are adequate to meet the needs of more people.

Look at our retail facilities, to cite but one example. Since the county’s population growth resumed after after the deep recession of the 1990s, we have added only modest amounts of retail space. The upshot? Nevada County residents head out of town for shopping, taking with them the money they spend on sales taxes.

And because our sales tax dollars are collected elsewhere, we have fewer dollars to spend on public improvements such as street and road improvements in Nevada County. Streets will grow more congested every time a family decides to move here; our ability to provide offsetting street improvement projects is hampered by our unbalanced growth and loss of tax revenue.

Only by keeping growth of population, jobs and retail development in balance will we have a chance to protect the values we hold dear.

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