Our View: Nevada County planners should rethink Dollar General | TheUnion.com

Our View: Nevada County planners should rethink Dollar General

The Union Editorial Board

The Nevada County Planning Commission has some explaining to do about Dollar General.

Specifically, it needs to explain why a business that apparently met all the county's requirements and mitigated all appropriate environmental concerns isn't allowed to do business in Alta Sierra.

The commission also should explain why it's taking a path that could leave the door open to yet even more potential litigation against Nevada County.

We get that this commission has the thankless task of sitting through seemingly endless meetings that often focus on arcane governmental regulations and environmental concerns.

“This is bigger than whether a Dollar General comes to town. It’s about whether we want a handful of appointed officials deciding which businesses are palatable to the community, regardless of those businesses’ ability to meet county code.”

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And we understand that the commission wants to follow the wishes of the majority when it comes to what businesses come to our community and how they appear.

But its decision late last month denying Dollar General's proposal to bring a store to Alta Sierra should require more than a hand-waving explanation about why it doesn't meet county benchmarks.

Yeah, we know, some folks envision tacky knickknacks and sloppy shopping aisles when they hear the name "Dollar General."

Peer behind the store's name, though, and you'll find a business that sells items you regularly use, at prices you're willing to pay, in an area that's convenient to where you live.

The projects are zoned properly. The real estate developer — SimonCRE — has spent upwards of $240,000 for the environmental impact report and various county fees. The developer put the time and effort into making the Alta Sierra, Penn Valley and Rough and Ready sites meet the county's requirements and assuage environmental concerns. County staff, after working with SimonCRE, recommended approval for the Alta Sierra and Penn Valley sites.

Staff determined the Rough and Ready site could prove detrimental to the surrounding neighborhood and recommended denial.

Planning commissioners followed the recommendations for Penn Valley and Rough and Ready. Alta Sierra, which staff recommended the commission approve, was turned down.

The site's not suitable, they said. The parking requirements weren't met. The details of the store could be better.

"The scale of the project just seems a bit large," Commissioner Laura Duncan said. "I think it's important to know that Nevada County doesn't want to build on past mistakes. It wants to move forward."

Denying a business the ability to come here isn't avoiding past mistakes. It's a path that could keep us in a never-changing bubble and a road that leads our community down the hill to shop.

It's tough enough to meet local and state requirements when constructing and operating a business. Now businesses are expected to have a non-offensive name and meet a nebulous concept of what's appropriate?

Some attorney is going to have problems explaining that.

The Planning Commission is scheduled for a meeting this Thursday, when it's expected to formally vote to deny the Alta Sierra site. SimonCRE will then have 10 days to decide if it'll appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors.

Commissioners should re-examine the Alta Sierra store — take a really good look at it — and determine if it meets the zoning requirements. They should decide if, in fact, the proposal meets all county requirements and mitigates any environmental and other concerns.

If it does, it should be approved, as county staff recommended.

This is bigger than whether a Dollar General comes to town. It's about whether we want a handful of appointed officials deciding which businesses are palatable to the community, regardless of those businesses' ability to meet county code.

And if that's how our government operates, we would have preferred an explanation of the rules before now.

The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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