Nevada County Planning Commission wants more information on Rincon del Rio

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Plans for the 345-unit Rincon del Rio continuing-care retirement community plan in South Nevada County were predominantly praised Thursday at a Planning Commission hearing.

But some commissioners questioned parts of the plan that would keep a public trail from being built along Bear River.

The hearing in Nevada City also drew opponents, mostly from the area near Rincon Way,  who would feel the impact of the development most in the residential community a half mile east of Highway 49 and near the Placer –Nevada county line.

Otto Maneigen of Nevada County said he felt seniors would want to live in a caring community, like the one outlined by Rincon del Rio developers Carol and Jim Young.

“We need these places,” Maneigen said. “Things change. You’re going to have to accept the fact you’re going to have development and that some of you opposing this development will be living there.”

Rincon del Rio developers are asking approval of environmental documentation, a general plan amendment and a zoning amendment for the 215-acre site. The buildings, which will be constructed in phases, are on a footprint of 40 acres that will leave the other 170 open and undeveloped.

About 20 people spoke for the project and 10 against.

The Nevada County resident Angela Davis said she understood concerns of several speakers who said Nevada County didn’t have enough seniors developments like Rincon del Rio.

“But the appropriateness of this project is not there,” Davis said.  “Find another place. I get the idea that it’s important but it needs to be elsewhere.”

Among the concerns of locals expressed at past meetings and again Thursday were that not enough study has taken place on traffic impacts and that there could be serious impacts from the crush of people on narrow roads trying to evacuate in a fire.

Planning commissioners provided county staff with questions they still have and will continue the hearing at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Eric Rood Administrative Center, at 950 Maidu Drive, Nevada City.

Chairwoman Ruth Poulter asked the Youngs and county planning staff to look further into whether a trail could be built, perhaps around the development.

“I’d like to see if something can be done on a peripheral trail as part of the project,” Poulter said. “Access to trails is important to this body.”

Current zoning on the property allows 72 single-family dwellings.

Planning Commissioner Suzanne Smith said that she was concerned about who would pay the cost of a new traffic signal at Rincon Way and Highway 49 if traffic projections in current studies weren’t complete and one was found to be needed.

Smith said she didn’t think the traffic study took into enough account all the employees from services and businesses that would be driving in and out of Rincon del Rio.

“The traffic report isn’t complete enough,” Smith said. “I have a real issue about that.”

Commissioner Douglas Donesky described the project as an “elegant vision” but said he has questions about what would happen if it stalls in one of its earliest stages. It could “sit fallow” for years, he said.

“No amount of legal language can make it be turned into reality,” Donesky said. “The applicants seem to have passion and are dedicated but as a planning commissioner, I have to look at the possible bumps in the road.”