On Tuesday night, the Grass Valley City Council made its biggest land-use decision in its history, short of the General Plan.
It unanimously voted to annex property at the south end of the City, clearing the way for new housing, a larger shopping center than the recently discussed Dorsey Drive Interchange and other development — and it did so without any cost-benefit analysis. It was a long percolating plan and a big deal to the community.
But the Council worked hard to downplay the decision, arguing this was just the first step.
After a public hearing they unanimously voted to: “1) waive the reading of the ordinance in its entirety and read by title only; 2) introduce the ordinance prezoning 416 acres; and 3) adopt Resolution No. 2014-03, which approves the General Plan Amendment, Prezone, and Annexation applications (13PLN-08), and certifies the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) as being compliant with the California Environmental Quality Act”
Or in plainer terms: “They also adopted the EIR with overriding conditions, including a General Plan amendment and rezone for the historic Berriman Ranch with residential zoning and highway buffer area to 29 acres of retail commercial zoning for a larger shopping center than the Dorsey Drive Interchange infill site — all paid for by the taxpayers. The City paid for all of it to pave the way for a 29-acre shopping center. No economic study on costs/benefits was not done.”
During the public hearing, some residents said they did not receive enough notification from the city about the proposed annexation. Others complained they felt better served by the county before their homes were annexed inside the city limits.
They pointed to potholes in the road and other problems. “Our road is like a washboard,” one of them complained — worse than the roads they drove down during a recent overseas trip.
Besides downplaying the decision, the Council noted the cost-benefit analysis will come later. Mayor Dan Miller also went out of his way to chide the social media discussion about the big land-use decision stating: “If you come here, you don’t have to rely on anyone else” for information. Really?
I rarely hear electeds in our city or county express themselves publicly like Dan, who has chosen to run for supervisor against incumbent Terry Lamphier, and probably wishes the development debate would go away in an election year.
The Council, at least some of them, seem more comfortable handling business within the confines of its Chambers, where it has an opportunity to more readily control the dialogue (“speak for three minutes,” etc). The tone on Tuesday was more one of “selling” the idea to the public and defending it, more than aggressively scrutinizing it.
No matter how the Council feels, the real dialogue is outside the Chambers, where tens of thousands of people live, work and play. They couldn’t all fit inside City Hall anyway.
I know Grass Valley City Hall means well from its own perspective, and job creation and a thriving economy weigh heavily on its mind.
But it also weighs heavily on the rest of the community, who work and live here — and also have to deal with the intended (and unintended) consequences once the developments are built.
They also are the customers of the developments — and ought to be treated as such. They also see the consequences of “Burger Basin” and Pine(less) Creek(less) Shopping Center and often wish it was executed differently. In fact, many of them have lived in places with better development than this.
Being an elected official also means you have to adjust your temperament. And enough with the “cone of silence” stuff. Voters and constituents are pretty smart too. They can look ahead and figure things out. They have a lot of experience and know-how.