Residents study possibilities for Donner Summit | SierraSun.com

Residents study possibilities for Donner Summit

David Bunker

Donner Summit residents looking to have a hand in shaping their community’s development are exploring the possibilities of a county area plan, road improvements and zoning changes.At a Sept. 22 meeting held by Nevada County Supervisor Barbara Green to talk about roads, bike lanes, sewage capacity and economic development, more than 70 locals from Soda Springs to Cisco Grove gave their input on improvements they think are necessary in the area. The meeting and much of the interest was jump-started by an economic development study commissioned by the county and released more than a month ago that bluntly pointed out challenges that the area faces.In the end, the one thing that garnered widespread interest from summit residents was the idea of developing a county plan. Similar to efforts in other unincorporated parts of the county, a plan would guide development in the Soda Springs core. But locals said that before any planning starts, summit residents and stakeholders must first come to a consensus on their vision for the area.”I don’t think that we are going to pursue a county plan or anything else until we know who wants what,” said Lori Van Meter, a resident and business owner on the summit.She said an area plan may need to extend outside of Soda Springs to be useful. The summit presents challenges to planners, but also certain opportunities, which will have to be balanced in developing a strategy for the area.”We have 1,500 homes,” said Dale Verner, board member of the Donner Summit Public Utility District. “You can only see three at a time, but we have 1,500 homes. We have three multi-million-dollar industries and we have two counties.” The division of the summit area between Nevada County and Placer County is one of the main impediments to creating a comprehensive plan for the entire area, said Green. “Every single issue at the summit crosses county lines,” she said.Nevada County could help in developing a county plan for Soda Springs, but Serene Lakes, which is in Placer County, would be left out of that process. Green said she hopes the two counties can work together to complete a more comprehensive blueprint for development of the bi-county community.But perhaps the summit’s single biggest obstacle to new growth and redevelopment is the sewage capacity – or lack thereof – of the Donner Summit Public Utility District.”We don’t have the ability to build a building and flush the toilet,” said Norm Sayler, owner of Donner Ski Ranch. Residents expressed mixed opinions about the sewage limitations, which effectively stunt future development until an expansion of treatment facilities is completed. Such expansion could cost more than $6.5 million and would take at least three years from the date it was funded, said Verner.Some people at the meeting saw the lack of sewage capacity as a way to limit growth and preserve the summit’s small community atmosphere, while others saw the shortfall as a hindrance to the summit’s economy, which is already battling other problems. Whatever difficulties lie ahead, several residents on the summit said they are now working together to find solutions to the things that they can improve, and the county is lending its expertise along the way. “I think that we are headed towards a more cohesive community,” said Van Meter.Donner Summit residents are invited to a community meeting on Sunday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. at Ice Lakes Lodge.