The Nevada Planning Commission voted 7-1, with Janet Wray casting the lone dissenting vote, to recommend denial of a request to rezone property at 1415 N. Osage from M-1, light industrial, to M-2, heavy industrial, that would accommodate a proposed facility for building prototype wind turbines on the site. Nevertheless, the commission also wants to look into options for changing the existing zoning regulations or special use permit rules in light of the specialized production activity that applicant Graham Gentry’s proposing, saying it’s new technology and a type of use that may need to be more specifically addressed by zoning rules.
Commissioners cited a concern that changing the zoning to M-2 would mean that, if the proposed business moves out for any reason, then other, less agreeable forms of heavy industrial uses would be able to move in.
While neither planning commission members nor neighbors of the proposed facility voiced concern about it, Commissioner Jeff Tweten said, “I’m concerned that by changing zoning, there are so many things that can go in there.” He stressed that he didn’t have concerns about Gentry’s proposal, but believes that such a zoning change could open the door in the future for other operations that “could be very disruptive” to residents of a trailer park and the Osage Prairie RV Park, both nearby. “We have to consider the future.”
Commissioner Lisa Christie agreed and noted that although neighbors didn’t voice objections, it may be that they don’t object to the wind turbine facility, they might not have a full understanding of what M-2 zoning could mean in the future. “Not what your company is going to mean,” she said to Gentry, “but what could go there.”
Christie also expressed a concern about buffering – trees, fencing, or some other means of separating the facility from the residential zoning behind it.
But Wray said after the meeting that she believes the zoning change should move forward. “There’s M-2 across the highway … you don’t know what’s going to happen in 10 years,” and she hopes something can be done to allow the wind turbine facility to locate on the property.
Addressing Gentry, Tweten said, “I don’t think your use would concern me,” and that he believes a compromise, such as a change in special use permit regulations or in the M-1 zoning code to allow this specific use might be the solution. “We need to become progressive; I think we are progressive,” and some compromise may be found down the road.
Commissioner Jim Liley said the commission’s always been liberal in terms of accommodating businesses that want to move in, but sometimes it seems “our hands are tied,” and believes the city should “man up and find a way” to allow the wind turbine facility to locate on the proposed site.
“Those rules can bend; they can be changed,”Liley said. “We have an opportunity to bring in potential business.”
But changes in zoning regulations take time, and there’s no guarantee that updating those rules would mean Gentry’s plan could move forward with existing zoning in place.
No information about whether such a move would be feasible, how long it would take to effect such a change in zoning regulations or special use permit regulations, or the cost associated with doing so was available at Tuesday’s meeting – so after voting to recommend denial, commissioners voted to obtain those details for the next meeting. Tweten noted that other changes may be needed as well, to address requests that might come in the future relating to a variety new technologies evolving everywhere. “I’d like to see you come here and do it.”
Unless Gentry withdraws his zoning request, it will go before the Nevada City Council, who will consider the application. The council can approve the request, deny it, or remand it back to the Planning Commission for further review.
The city council has a liaison to the planning commission, but no council member attended Tuesday’s meeting; commissioners expressed dismay that there was no council member in attendance who could offer insights to the council when the zoning issue is considered by the council. Council members were attending a budget work session that had been scheduled at nearly the same time as the planning commission meeting.
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