Barber plan: proceed with caution

Last week the people behind the plan to develop the old Diamond Match property in southwest Chico unveiled their vision with no small amount of calculation and premeditation. First, they contacted both this paper and the daily, vaguely suggesting, we assume to each, an opportunity for exclusive access and a chance to scoop the competition.

It worked well, with each paper printing a story about the ambitious plans on the very day before the neighbors were invited to tour the 144 acres and hear first-hand what the developers have in mind.

Though we may have been manipulated to some extent here, we hold no grudges and in fact applaud the owner and developers for their well-planned introduction of the project, which is sure to draw some opposition. This is Chico, after all, where the loyal (and active) residents always eye big plans with a healthy amount of skepticism, as well they should.

At this early stage we like the general concept of the plan and its call for a mixed-use neighborhood rather than just another cookie-cutter housing tract like we were handed with Brentwood Estates on north Esplanade. The owner, Jeff Greening, is said to very much value—and hopes to incorporate into the project—the impressive buildings of the historic company that helped shape modern-day Chico. That sense of respect is encouraging.

The Barber property presents a chance to meet the spirit of the General Plan by building on what is truly infill land. Something will go there eventually. It is still early in the process and folks living in the old Barber neighborhood have a right to be concerned. But let’s not be knee-jerk re-actionists or allow NIMBYism to replace reasoned consideration, at least, until the environmental-impact reports are done.

There are indeed causes for concern here, from on-site environmental issues to matters of traffic flow and the impact on the existing neighborhood. But before the lines are drawn and the curses cast, let’s give the folks behind this a chance and see if something that benefits the whole community can be built.