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NEVADA CITY, Calif. February 23, 2017 – Today’s Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCo) meeting was a standing room-only affair, with  approximately 160 people inside and outside the Board Chambers. The workshop on Nevada City’s sphere of influence drew crowds of residents, even though no decision on the draft proposal was expected today.

LAFCo Chair Hank Weston continued the workshop to March 16 in order to allow any member of the public desiring to speak on the issue to be heard.

To Shrink or Not to Shrink

LAFCo staff prepared a draft to reduce the city’s sphere of influence from 2,907 acres (238% of the city’s size of 1,224 acres) to 1,482 ares 121% of the current city acreage.) Nevada City’s current sphere contains 215 undeveloped parcels and 735 already-developed parcels – which won’t need city services like water or sewer unless septic systems fail or wells run dry. Reducing the existing sphere of influence to 1,482 acres would still leave 274 improved parcels with a total acreage of 604 acres and 124 unimproved parcels with a total acreage of 878 acres in the revised sphere.

The remaining acreage – 462 developed properties totaling 982 acres, and 94 unimproved properties totaling 366 acres –  would be placed in an “area of interest.”

Nevada City staff made the argument to leave the current sphere boundaries in place. City Manager Mark Prestwich stated there would be no obligation for the county to maintain land use patterns (zoning) consistent with the city’s interests. A desire to maintain the current viewshed, watershed health, traffic and the need for appropriate development close to city limits are of utmost concern to the city.

A few members of the public expressed their frustration with LAFCo’s proposed update and asked the commission to reconsider. The city’s sphere should remain unchanged, according to all the speakers who were able to express themselves before the meeting had to be adjourned just past noon. The Board Chambers was unavailable in the afternoon, a Planning Commission meeting having been scheduled for 1:00 pm.

Who Made LAFCo the Arbiter of All Boundaries?

The state created LAFCo in 1963 and, in 1972, LAFCos were given the power to determine spheres of influence for all local governmental agencies. This includes cities, water districts, fire departments but not school districts.

LAFCo is now required to review and update each agency’s sphere of influence plan every five years. The last major update for Nevada City occurred in 2008.

A Sphere of Influence Is…

A sphere of influence is the area immediately outside city limits where development is likely to occur, because of the proximity of existing services such as roads, water, sewer, police and fire. Nevada City’s current sphere contains 215 undeveloped parcels, the 735 other parcels are already developed.

Now What?

The Commission will continue to hear public input at the next meeting and then provide direction to staff. A decision on any changes to the sphere will not be made at the March 16th meeting.

For details on the proposed changes, please refer to: A Primer on Nevada City’s Sphere of Influence Update