Other Voices: Osborne Hill development may diminish quality of life
Recently, members of the community were invited to several public meetings to learn about the proposed Osborne Heights development south of Grass Valley near Union Hill School. Concerned that this development would adversely impact traffic and recreational values of the area, I eagerly attended to learn firsthand what the developers had in mind. Unfortunately, what I learned did not assuage the concerns I share with many others about this project.
The Osborne Heights development has nothing to do with affordable housing. According to the developers, it would feature high-end properties that would retail from $700,000 to over $1 million. 76 houses would be clustered on this hilltop well outside of Grass Valley city limits. Once again, city residents would be expected to foot the bill for city services (parks, streets, traffic mitigation) that residents of expensive, out-of-town homes use.
According to current plans, Osborne Heights is anticipated as a higher density development that would have exactly one vehicular outlet on to narrow Osborne Hill Road. The developers have stated an intention to widen part of this road or possibly plow another road to Rattlesnake Road, but this misses the point. To get to town, residents would make many hundreds of car trips (as it is too far to walk) out on this road and take a left on to Highway 174 by Union Hill School. If you are familiar with this area, you already know how bad traffic on Highway 174 is during school hours. Imagine hundreds of additional cars trips in this badly congested area. If you currently drop off your child at Union Hill and are frustrated with the traffic, you better plan on leaving home earlier and waiting in even longer traffic lines.
Today, the Osborne Hill area is a tremendous community asset. It offers de facto open space adjacent to Empire Mine State Park. In fact, most residents consider this area as part of a continuum of the park as it offers a network of trails used by cyclists, equestrians and hikers. Most of these trails are located on the one section of the parcel in question. Yet at the meeting, the developers stated their intention to split the parcel and sell off the area with highest concentration of these trails as a 30-acre single family parcel.
After splitting the parcel and selling off this trails-rich area, the Osborne Heights developers plan to allocate a significant fraction of the remaining area as open space. While this is admirable in theory, this development group does not have a very good track record when it comes to respecting open space. Last year, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors caught these same developers building a road in an area in the Rattlesnake Ridge development that they had promised as open space. The Board wisely demanded that the group rehabilitate the area, but the damage was done. Can we expect more of this at Osborne Hill?
Empire Mine State Park officials have expressed an interest in acquiring this property, and this is exactly what should happen. Osborne Hill is a terrific recreational asset that ought to be part of the park, whereas it is a terrible location for yet another expensive development, far from town, that solves no outstanding needs of our community.
Please call your county supervisor and other elected officials and let them know how you feel about this development and how it could adversely affect our community’s quality of life.
John J. Gardiner is a resident of Grass Valley, a landlord and a private property owner.
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