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Our View: South County commercial project long overdue

The Union Editorial Board

With the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of a Roseville-based developer this week, a long-awaited South County commercial construction project looks poised to finally come to fruition.

And with that news, we will be glad to soon see some commercial development north of the Bear River for a change.

Higgins Marketplace, a commercial project that has been held up in the court system for the past four years, can now more forward. Fred Katz, owner of Roseville-based FHK Properties, can now commence construction on a 57,000-square-foot supermarket flanked by smaller retail structures on a 20-acre lot behind the CVS Pharmacy at Combie Road and Highway 49. Project construction is slated for 2014, Katz told The Union.

Earliest reports of the project planned for the “Higgins Corner” area date back to 2003, but concerns over the impact on traffic, local businesses and perceived changes to a rural lifestyle of the area brought opposition to the project. The “Higgins Corner” name dates back to Michael J. Higgins, who came to California in 1952 from New York and eventually homesteaded 160 acres off Wolf Road, where he farmed and raised livestock. Maintaining the rural nature of the area’s heritage while offering residents more services is a balancing act often referenced by Nevada County Supervisor Ed Scofield, who represents South County.

In November 2009, the Nevada County Planning Commission gave final approval to the project, but a lawsuit filed by a group known as South County Citizens for Smart Growth followed, alleging Katz and Nevada County violated the California Environmental Quality Act on multiple fronts during the project approval process. In 2011, a Superior Court decided in favor of the county, and the appellate court affirmed that ruling Tuesday.

Finally having a green light to move forward, Higgins Marketplace should be a source of commercial growth and economic activity in South County — and western Nevada County in general.

A 2011 study funded by the city of Grass Valley showed that as much as $200 million per year was being spent by area residents in Auburn, Roseville and Sacramento. And considering the short drive — less than 10 miles from the entrance of Lake of the Pines to north Auburn — it’s no secret that the majority of South County residents “turn left at the light” on Combie Road at Highway 49 to do their shopping, as opposed to driving “up the hill” to Grass Valley or Nevada City.

With new Walmart and Costco stores slated for north Auburn, in addition to the Home Depot and Super Target that already draw dollars “down the hill,” the Higgins Marketplace project should help keep some of those retail dollars in Nevada County rather than simply surrendering sales tax revenue south of the Bear River into Placer County.

Along with the Higgins Marketplace project, more economic activity is apparent in the South County area with the continued construction of the Cascade Crossing development on Combie Road. The 80-unit residential development, formerly known as “Saddle Ridge,” sat idle for years before new owners revived the project. The first stretch of homes is now close to completion, with a grand opening event slated for Oct. 19.

The January sale of DarkHorse Golf Club to Asia Pacific Group, which plans to invest in significant upgrades to infrastructure, along with Nevada County’s approval of Rincon del Rio, a Continuing Care Retirement Community on a 215-acre site near the Bear River, also expect to offer a boost to the county’s coffers.

Considering the slow recovery we’ve seen in our community from the Great Recession, such signs of increased economic activity should be welcomed in South County.

Our View represents the opinions of The Union editorial board, which is comprised of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.


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