Other Voices: Managed growth issue isn’t really needed
This November, there is an initiative on the ballot for consideration called Measure Z. Also known as the Managed Growth Initiative, this measure is proposed by a group calling themselves “Friends of Grass Valley,” made up of a few Grass Valley citizens, but mostly activists from outside the city.
While they claim to want to control growth in our city, and give citizens a say in the process, their true intent is no growth, as it has been in other communities that they have forced their agenda on – Berkeley, Napa and Newport Beach are a few examples. Their goal is to convince voters that the City Council is a group in the pockets of developers, and that their initiative is the only way we can control them from passing bad projects and taking away our city’s small-town charm. This is simply not true.
In California, voters already have the ability to vote against projects they feel are bad for their community. Any citizen of Grass Valley can, after gathering enough support from members of the community, call for a referendum vote on any project approved by City Council. Therefore, if the council approves a project that the majority of our citizens feel is bad for the city, we can vote it down and override their decision.
So why the need for the Managed Growth Initiative? In reality, there is no need for such an initiative because checks and balances already exist to hold our council members accountable for their decisions. The true intent of Measure Z is to stop growth in Grass Valley, because a group of so-called “environmental activists” have chosen our city as their next project. What these Friends of Grass Valley are not telling voters are the effects their initiative will have on our city for years to come.
While there is no way of knowing exactly what will happen to Grass Valley if Measure Z passes, there could be numerous negative effects based on what has happened in other cities and towns where similar initiatives have passed. One possibility is that developers will take their projects into the county where it will be easier to get approval. This would take important tax revenue away from the city, money we need to pay for police officers and firefighters, as well as city services and road repairs.
While Friends of Grass Valley argues that this will not happen, most developers will take this action rather than wage an expensive public relations campaign to gain approval for their projects.
Also, if developers do decide to move forward with projects, a special election will cost the city approximately $46,500, according to a city staff report, each time a project is proposed. That is money that could be better spent.
This initiative could also cause suburban sprawl just outside the city limits, neighbor- hoods and shopping centers dependent on automobiles, creating traffic nightmares much like Route 49 in North Auburn. We would have all the troubles and annoyances of a suburban auto-dependent town, without any of the benefits of the tax revenue it generates. At the same time, our population will not grow because there will be no new jobs or houses, and families will look elsewhere to raise their children. Grass Valley has already closed one school this decade due to declining enrollment, and if this trend continues, more will likely follow.
It is also likely that developers will sue the city over the validity of the initiative, which is what occurred in Napa County in the 1990s. A developer challenged their initiative, which Measure Z was modeled after, and the result was the case of “Divita vs. Napa County,” which cost the taxpayers over $500,000 in litigation alone. Again this is money our city cannot afford to lose.
Friends of Grass Valley wants our citizens to believe they are looking out for them by trying to give them a say in the future direction of our city, but we already have that say in the form of a referendum, a right guaranteed by the state of California.
Therefore, if that right already exists, what is the point of Measure Z? More importantly, if we can already vote to overturn projects approved by the City Council that we deem unfit, can we afford to risk our city’s future on a pointless initiative proposed by people who don’t live in Grass Valley and have no stake in our city’s survival?
It’s an enormous risk with no real reward.
Howard Levine is executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association.
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