Commission constipated

With only four members able to vote Tuesday (June 12), the Chico Planning Commission couldn’t take action on a major subdivision proposed for north Chico, deadlocking twice on votes. At issue was the Mountain Vista/Sycamore Glen proposal to build 679 dwelling units, including 409 single-family homes, on a 178-acre site between Ceanothus and Floral avenues north of East Avenue and just south of Sycamore Creek.

The site is surrounded by developments on three sides, but it also has numerous vernal-pool wetlands. The developer, Epick Homes, proposed dedicating 56 acres near the creek as a wetlands preserve. Because that would save only half the wetlands on the site, Epick also is proposing to establish a 400-acre conservation easement on the vernal-pool-rich Hamilton Ranch in Tehama County and purchasing 80 acres of wetlands there as offsite mitigation.

Commissioners Kirk Monfort and Mary Brownell supported the proposal, but Commissioners John Merz and Steve O’Bryan wanted a completely different project—called the “biological resources alternative” in the environmental-impact report—that would preserve virtually all of the wetlands by allowing only 50 single-family homes and clustering some 506 multifamily units on wetlands-free parts of the site.

George Kammerer, an attorney for the developer, insisted that alternative was “economically infeasible,” inappropriate for a project on the edge of town and illegal according to California Environmental Quality Act guidelines.

Commissioner Susan Minasian was on vacation, Commissioner Dave Kelley recused himself because he lived near the project, and Chairman Jon Luvaas recused himself because he was on vacation when the commission held its first meeting on the project. Luvaas earlier had incurred the wrath of Councilman Larry Wahl when he sent an e-mail to his fellow commissioners suggesting that initial discussions of the project be informal because the commission was likely to make suggestions for change.

The project was scheduled to go to the City Council regardless, but the commission had been asked to give its recommendation and certify the EIR. It did neither.