Other Voices: Proposal would create a new town, not a community
It has been a long time since the history of the development proposals for Loma Rica Ranch have been reviewed. With so much new development occurring in and around Glenbrook Basin, the time has come to reflect.
In 1990, the TMI investment group submitted a proposal for 767 homes, plus significant commercial and business park uses on the 452-acre Loma Rica ranch.
The community was appalled that the historic 60-acre horse ranch (then in operation) would shrink to a 15-acre theme shopping center in a project where commercial development sprawled down Brunswick Road. Traffic impacts were huge. The Loma Rica Ranch Preservation Committee immediately formed. Five thousand signatures were gathered to oppose the project as the opposition grew.
In 1995, the Rural Quality Coalition joined the Loma Rica Ranch Preservation Committee in successfully proposing appropriate general plan land-use designations for the ranch.
The final Nevada County General Plan Land Use Map allows only 180 homes and no commercial space. It allocates 115 acres of business park and 50 acres of “recreation” on the horse ranch. The new Grass Valley General Plan reads the same.
Then, dubious business dealings of developer TMI became public, and the property returned to its owner.
Other development proposals came and went. The RQC and several community groups continued to support the hard-won general plan limitations and proposed a 200-acre open space park encompassing the historic horse ranch. People worked hard applying for grants, trying to form a recreation district and working with the owner.
After Jean Brooke Dunning, the founder of the Loma Rica Ranch Preservation Committee, died, the RQC and others picked up the baton.
One such person was Michael Killegrew. He saw a great legacy in preserving the ranch as open space. He felt that our best hope was to find an investor to purchase the property and do the right thing. Mr. Killegrew drafted a proposal that included a 200-acre community park.
To improve the chances of attracting a developer, he proposed additional housing units to “sweeten the deal.” He proposed 300 to 500 houses, all clustered in the area near Dorsey Drive, a modest amount of commercial and business park, as well as a hotel/retreat at MacBoyle Lake near the airport. He submitted the proposal to the Getty Trust and asked a number of community groups, including the RQC, to sign on.
The Getty Trust purchased the property, and hopes were high that our community would indeed get a park and a compact, clustered development next to the Brunswick Basin, and no commercial space to compete with our downtowns.
But something went very wrong. The new owner hired a development representative. The proposal escalated to 1,200 homes, approximately 20 acres of business park and 42 acres of commercial development.
It was a sad time on many levels when, in 2003, Michael Killegrew passed away.
Regrettably, the Grass Valley City Council recently agreed to accept a development application on Loma Rica Ranch that is not even close to the general plan.
Seventeen years later, we have come full circle to a plan that is not much different from the 1990 TMI proposal.
The new proposal is for 700 to 985 homes, 385,000 square feet of commercial buildings (the equivalent of four Rite-Aid/Staples/Ben Franklin shopping centers) and approximately 60 acres of business park. The proposed farm is just a tiny fraction of the original agricultural area, similar to the entry theme-ranch center proposed by TMI.
In exchange for the potential to build four times the general plan’s allotment of houses, the city council has so far asked for nothing in the return for the community.
To counteract the many flaws within the proposal, the Getty Trust’s representatives avidly tout their project as representing smart growth that reduces traffic generation. Yet one of the biggest failings of their proposal is that so much commercial is proposed that it will attract new traffic from outside the project into the project.
They propose that approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people be housed at Loma Rica, about the population of Nevada City. This population and large amount of commercial is not a neighborhood, but a new town.
Grass Valley can lead the way by allowing development while setting aside significant open space. In this manner, the city can create new neighborhoods rather than new towns. Our only chance to do that is now.
We respectfully and strongly encourage the Grass Valley City Council to stick with the general plan as they have done with the other large annexation properties.
The final decision gives us the opportunity to do something that is lasting and great for our community or something that is ordinary and permanently damaging.
Laurie Oberholtzer is the land use projects director for the Rural Quality Coalition.
(Editor’s note: see opposing view, “Loma Rica plan keeps inevitable growth close by,” also published online. We are publishing both views today in a package.)
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