Change in supervisors could have growth implications
Sam Dardick has been on the losing end of votes that mattered dearly to him during his four years on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
All that is expected to change soon, however.
Dardick’s ideas for greater scrutiny of growth to protect the natural environment will be much more in vogue next year, when he and at least two other like-minded supervisors take majority control of the board. Furthermore, the victory of Elizabeth Martin on Tuesday in the race for District 4 supervisor added to the strength of that voting bloc.
“It certainly has been an amazing change,” Dardick said.
County residents want smart growth that protects the environment and, for the first time in 25 years, they will have a board that shares those ideals, Dardick said. He also dismissed charges the group was anti-growth, insisting he and the new majority simply want to plan for the growth that is inevitable.
“The county is growing like gangbusters,” agrees Brian Bisnett, spokesman for the environmentally minded Rural Quality Coalition, which has strong ties to the new board majority. “There is nothing we can do to stop growth.”
There will be more scrutiny of development, but the change will be less dramatic than people expect, predicted Bisnett.
With the new majority in place, Dardick also plans to revive the county’s Title 25 alternative-housing plan, which would offer homeowners in rural areas more flexibility in meeting county building codes. He predicted the more flexible alternative housing rules would be applied to existing homes that are unpermitted. However, Dardick was less sure about the new board’s chances of extending alternative-housing rules to new homes.
The so-called RQC majority was made possible by the election of Peter Van Zant two years ago and of Bruce Conklin last June.
Martin won the District 4 Supervisor’s seat Tuesday in a tight race against Jeff Ingram. Prominent RQC members are backing Martin.
That outcome means Supervisor Karen Knecht – who is considered part of the old guard opposed to RQC interests – will stand alone on the board.
Knecht downplayed the political differences on the board, noting most votes are 5-0. There will be disagreements over development, Knecht said, and impact fees could be increased more than she would like under the new board.
However, she still expects to exert influence on the board. She has done so in the past, even when she was on the losing end of a vote, Knecht pointed out. As the longest-serving supervisor, Knecht said, she also will have the best historical perspective.
Besides, the RQC has said it supports economic development, Knecht said. Now that it counts a majority of supervisors as friends, Knecht said, it’s time for the RQC and company to put up or shut up.
“They are on the hook now,” Knecht said.
Some, like Margaret Urke, fear the new majority will, with RQC support, usher in an economic slump.
Dardick’s push for alternative housing will reduce property values, warned Urke, executive director of the property rights group California Association of Business Property and Resource Owners.
She also warns about the consequences of the new majority on planning.
The supervisors will appoint an anti-growth majority on the Planning Commission, dramatically increase mitigation fees on new development, and drive up housing costs, she warned.
Her forecast for life under the new board calls for fewer jobs and an exodus of younger people who cannot afford to live here.
The new majority “are saying things the public wants to hear, but they are not telling the truth, which is that they are for no growth,” Urke said.
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Nevada County is now likely to remain in the red tier barring “extenuating circumstances,” thanks to changes to the state’s reopening blueprint announced this week.