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Supervisors dig into broadband, housing – The Union

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Nevada County supervisors spent part of their three-day workshop examining the expansion of broadband and housing.
The county’s broadband working group has brought together a variety of people working on strategies to expand high speed internet service throughout the county.
Supervisors last spring approved a $500,000 fund for a last mile broadband connection, said Kristin York, executive director of the Sierra Business Council. The funds were part of President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal.


“The $500,000 was split among four Internet Service Providers,” York said. “Projects are currently in various stages of progress. It went to cutting edge last mile broadband grants, and no other county is doing this.”
Oasis Broadband Wireless received $62,000; Spiral Fiber, Inc. got $205,000; Northern Sierra Broadband received $120,000; and Nevada County Fiber got $113,000.

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Last mile refers to the final leg connecting the broadband service provider’s network to the customer’s home. The last mile grant program was established in 2019, and is funded by the Transit Occupancy Tax.
Brian Foss, Planning Department director, discussed the Programatic Environmental Impact report.
“The Programatic EIR covers all types of technical infrastructure, aerial or underground, so a future provider can tier off that,” he said. “A Programatic EIR will provides a shovel-ready project and cut down timelines for other projects. It will go before (supervisors) by midsummer.”
Northern Sierra Broadband will provide fiber service to 35 Grass Valley homes in the area of Buck Mountain Road, Mountain View Court and Mountain Park Court, as well as adjacent areas. Nevada County Fiber will offer service to 22 Nevada City homes in the community of Oak Ridge and Bear Claw Court. The Oasis Broadband project will offer fixed wireless broadband service to 102 eastern county homes in the Dog Valley, Russell Valley and Klondike Flats area. Spiral will provide fiber service to 380 Nevada County homes in the Lake Vera Purdon Road and North Bloomfield Road neighborhoods.
Steve Monaghan, the county’s chief information officer, said it can be difficult to get service providers to the county. That’s why they’re exploring the possibility of cost sharing through joint build agreements.
They’ve had success with the latest last mile grant — $250,000 for the emergency operations center under the Department of Labor.
“Hopefully, we can use cost share between residents, county, grant programs and ISPs to bring internet to that little pocket,” Monaghan said.
On issues of housing, Ryan Gruver, health and human services director, said this year the county would focus on non-congregate housing.
“The objective is to coordinate with local jurisdictions, developers, and other partners to facilitate development of and access to affordable and workforce housing and pursue pro-housing policy changes,” Gruver said.
One partnership is with the Western Regional Housing Trust Fund. In fiscal year 2021-22, that included the Cashin’s Field project. It is a 51-unit affordable housing project with one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, close to historic downtown Nevada City. Supervisors approved a loan for the developer last April, through Western Regional, for $1.575 million.
The Regional Early Action Program initiative is a $462,699 project approved by supervisors last week covering five projects identified for a grant program, said Mike Dent, director of Housing and Support Services. Projects identified include accessory dwelling units, an accessory dwelling unit fee study and regional infrastructure planning.
“We’re at the beginning stages of implementing these five projects,” said Dent. “We’ll complete these projects over the next year or two.”
He also noted the county is on track to reach its Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a state mandate enacted in 1969 requiring counties to plan for the housing needs of residents regardless of income.
Gus Becerra, executive director of the Regional Housing Authority, praised the pace of housing development in unincorporated Nevada County. However, he said focusing on affordable housing could have a negative effect on attracting builders, and the county needs to target all income levels.
To facilitate new housing, the county is examining potential project locations: Sierra Crest Commons (56 units), Lone Oak Phase II (31 units), Brunswick Commons Phase II (26 units) and Cameo Drive Apartments (48 units).
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at wroller@theunion.com

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