Supes: Let’s get along this year
Chalk it up to New Year’s resolutions. In their first meeting of the year Jan. 8, Butte County supervisors were surprisingly conciliatory and handed down several unanimous decisions.

First the board agreed to work with county staff to come up with a series of “performance-based standards” for county department heads. It was a pretty bland discussion until District Attorney Mike Ramsey pointed out that the board is prohibited from using such standards to evaluate elected officials such as himself, the county clerk, the assessor and so forth. The supervisors agreed with Ramsey but said that the goals are meant only as friendly guidance and are not a power play. They voted unanimously to adopt some sort of performance standards for department heads.

Also approved unanimously were the appointments of a new board chairman and vice chairman (giving Curt Josiassen and Bob Beeler, respectively, another year in those positions), a $25,000 contract payment to former General Services Director Mike Pyeatt for managing the construction of the new Juvenile Hall, and the construction of a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Filbert and Sheridan Avenues.

City Council grapples with growth
Historically, whenever the Chico City Council takes up the issue of growth, the discussions turn tense, terse and divisive. The Jan. 8 meeting proved par for the course, as the council, missing Councilmember Steve Bertagna, dealt with three issues all related to the city’s inevitable expansion.

Over the next 20 years, the city figures to add as many as 80,000 new and annexed residents to its existing population of 65,000. That means more streets to sweep, necessitating the addition of three more sweeper vehicles at $350,000. Who pays, the incoming residents or those already here? The council agenda called for an increase in development fees—$6 per new home.

Supporting that, Councilmember Coleen Jarvis argued new development should pay for itself, that those already living in the city should not be burdened with the cost of growth. Councilmember Dan Herbert emphatically countered that he was building a new home that already had $16,000 in development fees. He argued that he’s lived here since 1973 and that he shouldn’t pay just because he’s building new house. The council deadlocked 3­3, which means the cost of the new sweepers will come from the General Fund, which for the most part is sales tax revenue.

The council also voted to rezone as single-family residential a county pocket known as the Chico Vecino neighborhood in the avenues between The Esplanade and Mangrove Avenue. Judy and Bill Casey want to build a four-plex apartment on Ninth Avenue. The neighbors don’t want it, and a rezone would stop it. The Caseys argued the city’s General Plan calls for infill—building on empty lots in existing developments—and higher densities via apartments. The council voted to rezone all but the Casey property and two existing apartments, so the rest of the neighborhood is protected but the Caseys can build their four-plex.

Finally the council once again took up the unpleasant task of staking out new areas for growth. There are 12 under consideration: Three, including Enloe-owned land east of town, are almost ready to go; four to the north and west would challenge the integrity of the Greenline; others have serious environmental constraints; and one sprawling area called Nance Canyon, south of Butte Creek and west of Highway 99, seems to be a favorite of Councilmember Rick Keene’s. Keene says the county is moving to develop the land under the county’s substandard-building regulations. Therefore, he says, the city should cast its growth net over the land before the county gets to it.

On Feb. 5 the council meets again and will talk about a possible advisory measure for the November election that would ask Chicoans about growth beyond the Greenline. The council might also write a letter to the county asking it to be reasonable in the way it chops up and develops Nance Canyon.