A done deal comes undone
Last Sept. 11, a group of Butte Creek Canyon residents thought they’d put a pesky problem behind them.
Earlier that summer, two Southern California developers, acting without a grading permit, had cut a long and deep driveway into a hillside about two miles up Centerville Road. Their plan was to build two homes on the hillside that would be served by the driveway. Neighbors, worried about erosion into a nearby pond and upset that no grading permit had been issued, complained to the county’s Development Services Department.
Subsequently two lengthy public hearings were held. The first was before the county Planning Commission, which denied the developers an ex-post-facto grading permit. The second was before the Board of Supervisors, which denied the developers’ appeal of the commission’s decision by a vote of 4-1 and ordered them to fill in the cut.
Done deal, right? Wrong.
Seven months later, the canyon residents have to go through the process again.
The developers, a father-and-son team named Dan and Ben Allen, own a company called Signalized Intersection West, LLC, based in Poway. On Dec. 10, 2007, they filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandamus in Butte County Superior Court challenging the supervisors’ decision. The suit alleges, in part, that “although there was discussion on a number of issues at the hearing, the Board did not make any findings to support its decision. Consequently it is wholly unclear from the administrative record why the Board denied the appeal.”
The petition asks the court to overturn the board’s decision. No action has yet been taken.
County Counsel Bruce Alpert wants to improve the county’s position vis-à-vis the lawsuit. He’s reluctant to say specifically what is wrong with its current position, preferring to describe it loosely as a matter of crossing T’s and dotting I’s. Judging by the citation above, though, which Alpert included as part of the resolution he asked the board to approve at its regular meeting Tuesday (April 22), it has something to do with the findings, or lack of same, in the original decision.
Alpert’s resolution was to vacate the board’s September decision and reopen the hearing on the appeal of the Planning Commission’s denial of a grading permit.
Caroline Burkett, a canyon resident, reminded the supervisors that the grading had been illegal and damaged the neighborhood. “I want to be sure the Allens and Signalized Intersection are held responsible for what they did illegally,” she said.
Paradise-area Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi replied, “I’m not going to change my mind. This is really just a cleanup action.”
Alpert, clearly worried about possible prejudicial remarks, quickly jumped in: “We’re just going to reopen the hearing. All the evidence that was previously presented will be included, and the new decision will be made based on it as well as any new information provided.” Then, in what was clearly an admonition—directed to Yamaguchi in particular—he added: “We need to be careful with our comments.”
“I think we should take our lawyer’s advice,” Chico Supervisor Jane Dolan said.
The board approved the resolution 4-1, with Chairman Curt Josiassen dissenting without comment. No date has been set for the new hearing.
Interviewed following the meeting, another canyon resident, Linda Cimino, said neighbors were bothered that they had to go through the process again, but she seemed confident that the supervisors ultimately would deny the appeal.