We just made the biggest land-use decision in GV history — but “never mind”

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.

“Never mind,” as Gilda Radner would say.

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.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

6 thoughts on “We just made the biggest land-use decision in GV history — but “never mind””

  1. The GV council’s actions on big public items like this in the last several years reek of blind desperation. Dorsey interchange at any cost. Idaho-Maryland Mine at any cost. SDAs at any cost. New drive-thru Starbucks at any cost. More drug stores at any cost. (“Glenbrook Basin is NOT a sacrifice zone!”) Amend the general plan? A silly formality. Change the zoning? A silly formality. Misleading the public in order to achieve our goals and realize our Sim-City-style ‘manifest destiny’? No problem! “I’m a city council member and I know what the city needs – the silly residents have no idea what they need – thank God I am there to save them from themselves!” Critical thinking? Cost-benefit analysis? We can’t be bothered to do those things, whatever they mean… there are jobs and livelihoods on the line!

    It’s pretty sad that the only rebuttal to this will be “you must be a no-growther – don’t you realize we’re in a debt-based economy where you either grow or perish by definition?” – but guess what – most or all of us who call for slowing down enough to apply some critical thought, take in other perspectives, do an actual cost-benefit analysis first – all marginalized as “stupid liberals” or something like that – we like it best when you come up with catchy terms for us – we actually already KNOW that we live in a debt based economy where you either grow or perish – the point is, there are different ways to achieve that growth, and overcorrecting is a good way to drive yourself into a ditch.

    Rosevilleing GV is not the only solution – it just happens to be the one that doesn’t require any of this annoying critical thinking stuff, so therefore is more ‘comfortable’ for those caught up in playing a game of SimCity with the lives of our residents and neighbors and the next generation.

    O well. Chance are this won’t be solved on a blog. Spread awareness, not ignorance. Promote and encourage critical thought whenever you can. Realize that the ‘obvious solution’ is not always the best. Realize there are more people to consider than yourself and your cronies. Right – we’ll be holding our breath til all local government becomes altruistic across the board…

  2. The labeling is a good point. I’m neither a “no growther” nor a “liberal.” Never have been. But I’m not stupid, either, just like a lot of folks. We’ve got a lot of problems around here when it comes to governance. They almost seem insurmountable.

  3. The City Council does not like to hear opinions from their subjects. I am city resident and have spoken several times at council meetings and it is not a pleasant experience if you are not on board. I email the council about issues and rarely get a email back from them even though my emails are respectful, short, relevant and they happen about 3 times a year. My impression is the council meetings are a formality and the decision is done. You standing up to speak against an issue is wasting their time. I guess the rezoning, and general plan change of the Dorsey Interchange property will not be a long drawn out process like I thought.

  4. I saw this earlier today and thought it fit. “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled”. Mark Twain

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s