Anti-growth? Hardly

It’s noteworthy that last week (July 17), for the second time in a month, the supposedly “anti-growth” progressive majority on the Chico City Council strongly supported a major new residential project.

In June it was Meriam Park, the largest local proposal in a quarter-century. The council approved it 5-1, with only conservative Councilman Larry Wahl opposed (and liberal Mary Flynn absent). Last week it was Epick Homes’ 679-unit Mountain Vista/Sycamore Glen project in northeast Chico, which passed unanimously, despite strong objections from local environmentalists concerned about the destruction of wetlands.

What gives? Are the council’s five progressives selling out the folks who elected them?

Not at all. They’re doing what good representatives should do, taking issues one at a time and judging them on their merits.

In last week’s case, Epick Homes planned to put 56 of the project’s 178 acres in a wetlands preserve and buy a conservation easement on 88 acres of vernal-pool lands elsewhere to mitigate the loss of six acres of wetlands on site. Otherwise, the project was an excellent one, with a number of features and amenities that seemed to be taken from the Meriam Park playbook.

Environmentalists wanted the council to opt for an alternative plan that would have saved most of the wetlands but required construction of hundreds of town houses and apartments instead of houses. Councilmembers, some of them clearly torn, rightly determined that a “wall of town houses” was inappropriate for the site and that the original proposal was better for Chico.

It was a tough decision but a good one. And it once again put the lie to the charge that liberals are anti-growth. They’re anti-bad growth, but that’s a different matter.