Disc golf a go

City Council and disc golfers forge agreement

The short course in Upper Bidwell Park has been a major bone of contention in the tussle over disc golf, and it filled that role again Tuesday evening (April 20) during the Chico City Council’s regular meeting.

At issue was the proposed agreement between the city and disc-golf enthusiast group Outside Recreation Advocacy Inc., aka the “Outsiders.” A few months ago the council agreed to help fund the group’s efforts to build a new 18-hole course in its current location along Highway 32, as well as 18 additional targets in city parks. The compromise would be to close the short course—12 holes also located at the environmentally sensitive Highway 32 area—for at least two years during a search for a new site closer to Chico.

But finding a home for a new short-course facility has long proved tricky. A year ago this month, the council approved a site in Lower Park adjacent to Caper Acres. A few weeks later, however, the panel changed its mind and instead opted to keep the current course in place for up to five years and continue to find just the right spot.

In the 11 months that have followed, city staff has worked to craft the agreement allowing the nonprofit Outsiders to develop, maintain and operate the long course in accordance with the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan, environmental review and a monitoring plan. The Bidwell Park and Playground Commission approved the plan last month, sending the issue back to the council, which, it turned out, had several questions and concerns about the draft document.

Councilman Andy Holcombe at first appeared primarily concerned with ensuring that this “framework for an agreement” be void of any ambiguity. In particular, he wanted the language of the document to be clear that the heavily used short course would indeed close by May 19, 2014—exactly five years from the date the council directed staff to draft an agreement with the Outsiders.

That discussion opened up a can of worms. Holcombe rattled off a number of questions and comments, including his opinion that the nonprofit should pay for all of the city’s expenses related to the annual monitoring of the sites (the draft proposed capping the organization’s contribution at $5,000).

In response to Holcombe’s comment, General Services Director Ruben Martinez pointed out that it would take a lot of work to make the current short course environmentally sound. He also noted that none of the city’s matching $52,000 of leftover Proposition 40 grant funds are allocated for it. As explained in the draft agreement, however, the funds would pay for those additional disc-golf targets at locations outside of Upper Park. The question on everyone’s mind appeared to be “where?”

Lon Glazner, president of the Outsiders, would give an answer during the meeting. But first, Mayor Ann Schwab bandied about the idea that his group set up a security deposit with the city to be used in case its members should abandon the disc-golf facilities. Those funds, she said, would be set aside and used to return the sites to their natural state in the event of that scenario.

Glazner took offense to the mayor’s suggestion. He asked whether other park facilities, such as the observatory and nature center, were subject to such a stipulation. He then went on to explain that the group’s plan is to first install the 18 holes in neighborhood parks—the hope is to add three targets to existing ones at both Wildwood and Community parks, and also to build a six-hole course near Caper Acres, he said.

Construction should be underway by Sept. 1 and completed by November. Glazner was careful to note that the 18 holes spread across the city do not represent a replacement for the current short course. However, he was succinct when addressing the fate of the facility in Upper Park: “We do not think the short course should stay open past summer,” he said.

At the end of the nearly four-hour-long meeting, the panel voted 6-1 to approve the agreement. The Outsiders now have 60 days to submit an implementation plan and budget for all construction.

Earlier in the meeting, the council tackled two other semi-controversial plans. First, it introduced an amendment to a city code to allow for drive-through services for banks and financial institutions in a neighborhood commercial zoning district.

Second, the panel directed the city attorney to increase the conservation measures that residential property owners must undertake during the sale of housing. The action will update an ordinance already on the books, raising the costs for single-family dwellings from $500 to $800 and from $300 to $560 for multi-family units.

The city’s Sustainability Task Force and its ad hoc committee recommended the measures. Schwab said the groups have been discussing the issue since September. She reminded the council that the changes are tied to the council’s commitment to reducing the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

Councilman Larry Wahl was the lone dissenting vote on the issue, claiming the panel was overstepping its authority. “I find this to be totally obnoxious and an invasion of property rights,” he said.