Apartment project collapses

Time has expired on Sterling Housing’s efforts to build a student-oriented apartment complex in an orchard along Nord Avenue. Faced with fierce neighborhood opposition, a possible referendum and a threatened lawsuit, the Houston-based developers have thrown in the towel.

“What happened was we ran out of time, and the sellers weren’t willing to extend the contract with us for the time we thought we needed to get through the lawsuit and meet the other conditions [for the project],” said a subdued Craig Dickerson, spokesman for Sterling.

The Chico City Council had given its tentative approval for the project when it agreed to rezone the property from light manufacturing to medium-density residential. But a loud protest from neighbors objecting to putting college students in their midst erupted and never waned.

The neighbors, Dickerson said, were “very well organized. We thought once it was approved the neighbors would accept it, but I guess we got more of a ‘welcome to Chico politics.’ “

Sterling invested more than $200,000 before it decided to cut bait.

A brief letter dated Aug. 26 from Jeff DuFour of Caldwell Banker/ DuFour Realty to City Manager Tom Lando explained the property owners—Joe and Sandy Bettencourt and Virginia Deatsch—"do not wish to have their property involved in Sterling Housing LLC’s rezone request” because Sterling is no longer looking to buy the property.

One city source said another buyer had contacted the sellers expressing an interest in building single-family homes on the 20 acres of land.