Supervisors approve changes to open the door for much needed Nevada County housing

Marianne Boll-See / The Union

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Steps to make building housing in Nevada County easier, were unanimously approved by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors during a regularly scheduled meeting held in the Rood Administrative Center this week.

The 2023 Board Objectives include efforts to coordinate with local jurisdictions and developers to facilitate the development of, and access to, affordable housing, according to the Nevada County website.

“There are so many impediments to building housing in California. The main one is the cost,” Supervisor Lisa Swarthout representing District 3 said. “Every sewer connection, water connection, and school fees have gone up considerably. Before you even put a stick in the ground, you’re looking at $200,000.”

The proposed Land Use and Development Code amendments presented to the Board by County Planners were intended to bring the LUDC and General Plan into compliance with recent changes in State laws, according to Kyle Smith, Nevada County Planner.

New laws such as the Middle-Class Housing Act of 2022, deem a housing development project allowable in commercial zones without the need for rezoning.

The proposed Amendments ensure the County Planning Department evaluates density increases and identifies and removes constraints to housing development, according to the staff report.

The alignment between the LUDC and the new State laws better positions the County to obtain more competitive scoring when applying for grants according to Smith.

“The Planning Department … applied for and was successfully awarded a grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) grant program,” Smith said.

The REAP grant helped to fund public outreach, engagement, and notification for amendments to the LUDC.

Updates to LUDC policies allow for additional housing types such as Accessory Dwelling Units (UDU), also called “granny units” that can provide additional housing with a detached unit, attached unit, or a converted existing space, according to the Nevada County website.

Duplexes or other multi-family units could be allowed with amended zoning where density limits have been adjusted, according to Smith.

State law has also expanded its allowances for Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU) which are a specific type of conversion of existing space that is entirely contained within the single-family residence, for example, a garage converted into a housing unit.

“I’m happy to see that we are doing everything we can to make it easier to build houses here,” Heidi Hall, Supervisor for District 1 said.

A recently published ADU Workbook is designed to be a living document so if standards change sometime in the future, the workbook reflects those changes, according to Smith.

Applicants would be required to show adequate provisions for adequate sewer and water.

“Most of these higher density zoning would be located near infrastructure and likely be served by NID or city water,” Brian Foss, Planning Director for Nevada County said.

Supervisor Hoek for District 4 inquired about the effects of building or adding AUDs or housing with a higher density of people in rural areas.

“I know it is an issue in Penn Valley,” Hoek said. “To watch us do a build out there would be a challenge without us having sewer and water.”

Zoning allows for increases in density including adequate sewer and water to be consistent with code, according to Smith.

“It’s almost impossible to develop any higher density that is not in the city,” Lisa Swarthout, Supervisor for District 3 said. “I know the City of Grass Valley won’t sell you your sewer unless you annex into the city.”

Swarthout went on to say, “It’s a ‘Catch 22.’ We’re required for the housing element to have this zoning, but the likelihood of it being built in those zones is highly unlikely.”

Another statutory update regarded under Fair Housing laws protects Community Care Facilities, Emergency Shelters, or Transitional Housing type development from being treated differently than other residential housing projects, according to Smith.

The approved Amendments and Ordinances would also make it easier to have in-home daycare centers.

The careful balance between economic sustainability and economic development was mentioned by Hardy Bullock, Supervisor for District 5 similar to concerns in the Truckee area regarding short-term vacation rentals (STRs).

“The STRs who come and stay and play and visit restaurants and downtowns are balanced with the need to keep the local neighborhood character intact… In my opinion, it strikes a balance,” Bullock said.

The Planning Commission requested staff provide additional notification to parcels and community groups that would be affected by the proposed Amendments, according to the staff report.

Most of the identified parcels consist of established neighborhoods of Lake Wildwood, Lake of the Pines, Alta Sierra, Union Hill, Cedar Ridge, Forest Knolls, Echo Ridge, Eden Ranch, Deer Creek Park, and other areas in the Sphere of Influence of the City of Grass Valley.

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