Our View: City should review approval process | TheUnion.com

Our View: City should review approval process

Now that the Grass Valley City Council has given final approval to the design for the new DeMartini RV Sales building on Idaho-Maryland Road, it might want to take a look at how the city handles these projects.

After nearly two years, seven meetings and three design changes, DeMartini’s project was challenged on Tuesday night by City Councilman Dean Williams, who raised concerns that the final look did not reflect the area’s historic character.

Williams contended the design reflected a more suburban look. He also wanted to make sure the landscaping included numerous fast-growing trees to shield the 12-acre RV lot from passers-by.

City councilman Mark Johnson would later join Williams in a vote against the project’s design.

Mayor Gerard Tassone and Councilwomen Patti Ingram and Lisa Swarthout voted to approve the design, which allows Tim DeMartini to start building a project that he has been working on with the city since May 2004.

DeMartini’s project was reviewed four times by the city’s Development Review Committee and three times by the Planning Commission. In that process, he submitted three different designs in an effort to meet concerns raised throughout the process.

In the end, the Planning Commission approved a design that was not even DeMartini’s first choice.

So when DeMartini learned prior to Tuesday’s meeting that “his” design was considered inappropriate by as many as two city councilmen, he was understandably frustrated by the process.

If the city wants to start enforcing strict design codes, it first needs to be clear on what architecture it finds acceptable and then establish clear guidelines for those who evaluate the projects. Otherwise, it is presenting a moving target, and that’s not fair to applicants.

In this particular case, the city had numerous opportunities to craft the project it desired. DeMartini, meanwhile, worked with various city agencies and planners in an effort to comply with the conditions established to get his project approved.

Fortunately, the majority of council members understood this and approved a project that had been taken through a long and costly process. If the council would have rejected this project, it would have represented a failure on the council’s part to successfully communicate to its committees, commissions and planners what kind of look it wants for the city’s new buildings

This time, by a 3-2 vote, the process did work. If the council would have rejected the design, it would have penalized a longtime local business that could have chosen to build elsewhere.

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