Summit residents question county’s economic study
August 24, 2004
Donner Summit residents said Tuesday that an economic study commissioned by Nevada County was incomplete, partially inaccurate and criticized the Soda Springs area for the very reason many choose to live there – its uniqueness.”They have an entirely different idea of what a town should look like,” said Lori Van Meter, after Tuesday’s Nevada County Board of Supervisors meeting where the study was discussed. “[The consultants] think it’s not a town if it does not have a Starbucks and a strip mall. This [study] was geared to Everytown U.S.A.”The $35,000 study, which was funded by a Community Development Block Grant, was meant to jump-start a revitalization of businesses and encourage the retail and service sectors to capture more of the tourist dollars spent in the area.Van Meter said she found it hard to agree that the summit is a poor environment for business when her gift shop, which opened for business on the Fourth of July, has already turned a profit and paid off all merchandise expenses.Cheryl Paduano, who along with her husband, Tony, owns the Soda Springs General Store, said that the study gave an inaccurate portrayal of the summit and the climate for businesses.”I don’t think the [consultants] came in and talked to the residents,” she said. “A lot of things were false.” Of the more than 40 residents that attended, many agreed that the community could benefit from better signs, a lower speed limit and a community and visitor center. Others said that the restrictive zoning of “highway commercial” along Donner Pass Road should be changed to “neighborhood commercial,” and that the sewer system needs to be expanded to allow development to go forward in downtown Soda Springs.But many said that aside from minor improvements, they like the area basically the way it is.Van Meter said that the idea that summit businesses are not capitalizing on the business of thousands of skier that visit during an average winter day, comes from a misunderstanding of the summit’s attraction during the winter.”I don’t think that people come to Donner Summit to [stay overnight],” said Van Meter. “They come so that they can jet home at night.” Supervisor Peter Van Zant said that the county should work towards formulating a specific plan for the summit area, a planning document that will guide long-term development in the unincorporated location. He said, despite the criticisms of the study, the report did spur discussion and paves the way for action on the summit.”I think we’re looking in the right direction,” Van Zant said. “I think we’re doing the right thing.”Supervisor Barbara Green said she would hold a community meeting on Donner Summit soon to discuss what can be done to improve the area, while maintaining the community’s identity.