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Signs point to continuing opposition for South Nevada County’s Rincon del Rio project

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A seniors development proposed for South Nevada County is raising the hackles of some nearby residents. The Rincon del Rio project borders Placer County and is just south of Lake of the Pines. The project is now moving through the county’s planning approval process but is being opposed by many of the residents who have homes near the 210-acre site off Rincon Way. When anti-Rincon del Rio signs recently started sprouting on 65 of the properties in the area near the proposed development, an attorney representing the developers sent letters to 32 property owners warning that they breached county code requirements. At issue was a prominent use of the word “Stop” in block letters similar to a stop sign’s. More than 30 letters were sent out in late August by Nevada City attorney Peter Lemmon on behalf of the developers, Carol and Jim Young. Benton Seeley, whose seven acres abut the Rincon del Rio property, said Wednesday that opponents weren’t intimidated into taking down their signs and the county has not enforced what people who received the letters consider more of an attempt to intimidate than inform. “My initial reaction was ‘Somebody could be this stupid,’” Seeley said. “We’re all professionals or semi-professional people here and most of us aren’t willing to put up a sign without knowing what our rights are.” Lemmon said Wednesday that the letters are a non-issue. There was never any intention to question people’s rights to free speech and the developers aren’t worried about the signs, he said. “But when opposition imitates a stop sign and uses the logo of the business they want stopped, it’s not very responsible opposition,” Lemmon said. Karen Abbott, another nearby resident, said the 100 signs that have been distributed are an attempt to spread the word to people outside the local neighborhood and dispel the impression that people opposed to the project are merely “NIMBYs (an acronym for the put down “Not In My Backyard). “Our message is that it’s a great idea but the wrong location,” Abbott said. The project received mixed reaction last spring at a scoping session held at Bear River High School, near the site. Proponents lauded the potential for jobs and a peaceful, rural location where seniors from the area could move to rather than leave the area. Opposition centered on concerns about traffic congestion, overdevelopment, fire safety and keeping the area rural-residential. Plans call for 345 detached or attached residences and 415 residents on the property, located off Rincon Way and fronting the Bear River. Current zoning allows 72 single-family dwellings. Buildings would be clustered within a 40-acre area on the western half of the 210-acre site. The other 170 acres are to be retained as open space. Lemmon said that the draft environmental impact report now being prepared for Rincon del Rio will address concerns opponents are now voicing. “We challenge them to wait until the EIR is out,” Lemmon said. “While the opposition should be able to voice their complaints, it’s really premature.” The draft environmental documentation is nearing completion and could be released for public comment within 30 to 60 days, Nevada County principal planner Brian Foss said. Release of the draft document would trigger a 45-day public review period, which would include a public hearing. Rezoning issues would be addressed in a staff report as the project moves forward.