Susan Peters is the city planner for the City of Jackson. Though she only works part-time for the city, that role keeps her busy. What’s more, she’s deeply involved as an Amador Water Agency director for District 4, and she also teaches a Barre class three times a week at Motivate in Sutter Creek. (Barre is an exercise program based on ballet.)
I talked with Peters last week regarding the state of planning in the city, what’s happening with several properties in Jackson, and how the city can help business owners.
State of (Planning) the City
Peters said that activity hasn’t slowed down since the public health emergency began. “That’s probably because we got grant funds to update our general plan,” she explained, so she’s starting work on updating the city’s general plan for the next 20 years. The original completion date was scheduled for the end of 2021, but Peters said that the deadline has been pushed back to June 2022.
Peters said she’s getting more interest in developing housing in the city, but nothing is confirmed as of this writing. She added that she expects people to keep working from home even after the public health emergency ends, and as a result, there’s a lot of open office space available.
And she expects that housing inventory will continue to drop, which will put more pressure on the city to develop more housing. With so many open business spaces, she said, “it’ll be interesting to see if we can convert those spaces into other uses such as residential and retail.”
That pressure will also bring demand for more services, especially Internet connectivity. “What’s going to hold us back is broadband issues,” she said, “and there are a couple of areas in the city that don’t have good broadband.”
Another important service on Peters’ radar is the fire department. The city has outgrown its central station on Main Street and has almost outgrown its north Jackson station on Argonaut Drive. There has been talk about adding a fire station in the Oro de Amador area bounded by Jackson Gate Road, New York Ranch Road, the Jackson Cemetery, and Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park. However, Peters said a new fire station “is merely an idea at this point.”
Certain Properties of Note
Peters said she has received more interest in commercial properties and several vacant properties in the city recently. At its June 15 meeting, the city planning commission rejected a revised proposal from Lee Scundi, who purchased surplus Caltrans property at the northwest corner of Schober Avenue and Highway 49, which is directly north of Jackson Creek Plaza.
Scundi originally proposed two drive-thru coffee kiosks on the property, but the city turned down that proposal in part because it wasn’t clear if the property was zoned as commercial. Peters brought the issue back before the planning commission after she confirmed the property was zoned commercial and Scundi had materially changed his proposal.
Scundi’s revised plan included one drive-thru coffee kiosk with two entrances from Schober Avenue and two exits onto Schober Avenue. “From a site standpoint,” Peters said, “it can accommodate a kiosk, but it’s just that other impacts the neighborhood is concerned with is a big issue.” One of the primary impacts is ingress and egress issues for people in the Peek Hill neighborhood, as there are only two ways out of and three ways into the neighborhood.
For now, Scundi continues to talk with the city about appropriate uses for that property. “That case is just difficult,” Peters added, so it will take some time to find a suitable use for that property.
Another high-profile vacant property is the former site of the Ratto Theater on the west side of Main Street between Swensen’s Shoes and Bella Donna Wax Salon. The theater was built by Sutter Creek businessman John Ratto in 1911. The building burned to the ground on October 14, 1998, and there has been a vacant space since then. A fence with an affixed poster of Jackson from Merzlak Signs keeps people walking on Main Street from getting into adjacent Jackson Creek.
Peters said the city was interested in purchasing the property from the building’s owners, the Strom family, and turning it into a municipal space. The owners and the city couldn’t come to an agreement, and the Strom family eventually sold the property to another owner. Peters said she doesn’t know what the current owner’s plans are if any, so expect to see the fence for a while longer.
The general plan update will reflect these changes, and Peters said the kickoff meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 18. The city, she added, is actively looking for public participation in the forms of Zoom meeting workshops, direct mailings, and social media outreach.
Peters also said that the city is here to help. “If there are constraints owners have running their businesses,” she said, “let us know what they are and give us the opportunity to try to help you.” One area in particular that she said the city can help with now is with outside dining areas for city restaurants.
But, she added, the city can’t help if you don’t let them know. Once the city knows about a business that needs help, Peters said, “we can work through it quickly so a business has the best opportunity to stay open.”
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