Dolan shows her skill, then says adieu

Deals with pesky canyon driveway before being feted

Jane Dolan received a number of gifts during her farewell celebration, including 32 roses (from county administrative staff) and a fire captain’s helmet from Fire Chief George Morris.

Jane Dolan received a number of gifts during her farewell celebration, including 32 roses (from county administrative staff) and a fire captain’s helmet from Fire Chief George Morris.

Photo By robert speer

When Jane Dolan stepped down as a Butte County supervisor Tuesday (Dec. 14), after 32 years on the job, she did so in the afternoon, following a celebration of her career.

Before that, though, she sat through her final regular meeting, and for the last time as a supervisor she showed just how much she’d learned in those 32 years.

When the subject of Chico’s latest sewer plan came up, for example, Dolan was masterful in her knowledge of the history of the project, the reasons why the sewers were needed, the various governmental players involved—everything that had to do with one of the most complex projects in recent city and county history.

When the discussion of the sewer project ended, the board tackled another thorny issue, and again Dolan’s expertise was evident.

This was the long-festering neighborhood battle over a driveway two property owners cut deeply into a hillside off Centerville Road, in Butte Creek Canyon, back in 2005.

The owners, a father-and-son team named Dan and Ben Allen, own a development company called Signalized Intersection West based in Poway, in Southern California. The driveway was meant to access two hillside plots where they wanted to build houses. Neighbors complained that they didn’t have a grading permit and that the cut was vulnerable to erosion into a nearby duck pond, and the county placed a stop-work order before the grading was completed. The two sides have been arguing ever since.

First the Planning Commission refused to grant Signalized Intersection West an ex-post-facto grading permit. Then, on Sept. 11, 2007, the board denied SIW’s appeal of the commission’s decision and ordered the Allens to fill in the cut.

Canyon residents thought it was a done deal, but in December 2007 the developers took the county to court. In April 2008, the supervisors vacated their decision on the advice of County Counsel Bruce Alpert and decided to hold another hearing—the third—on Sept. 28 to build a stronger case.

Once again the board voted, 3-2, with Supervisors Bill Connelly and Curt Josiassen dissenting, to approve a motion of intent to deny the Allens’ appeal. This time, they thought, they had taken a legally defensible position.

It didn’t turn out that way. Recently, Superior Court Judge Barbara Roberts ruled that the county’s denial of SIW’s appeal on environmental and traffic-safety issues was not supported by substantial evidence. She ordered it to be reconsidered.

That’s what the board did Tuesday. It took into account several options, including simply granting SIW the permit to finish its grading. County planning staff argued that the project description had been significantly revised—one of the home sites had been moved—and pointed out that new state regulations required that any driveway serving more than one house be considered a road and developed with two 9-foot-wide lanes.

Chairman Connelly wanted to go ahead and grant the permit, but Dolan put the matter into perspective. She reminded the board that the original parcel maps for the property called for two driveways, that it denoted wetlands areas that were not to be disturbed, and that the current driveway didn’t conform to either condition.

“None of this stuff conforms to the process required by the parcel map,” she said.

The board voted, 4-1, Connelly dissenting, to send the project back to the Planning Commission for further consideration—in effect, to start over … again.

Supervisors chambers were packed for the last event of the day, the tribute to Dolan. County notables mingled with ordinary folk whom Dolan had helped over the years.

She started it off by giving what amounted to a farewell speech. It was filled with thank-yous and accounts of memorable moments, but most of all it was her reiteration of what she had hoped and, to a great extent, accomplished as a supervisor.

She’d had goals: to stop urban sprawl onto farmland; to create a transit system for the county; keeping the air and water clean and the latter “available to us”; protecting older neighborhoods; and improving the quality of life by adding parks, bike lanes, and the like.

“You know, I never intended to do it this long,” she said. “Now I don’t want it to stop, but I know it will.”

She said she hoped to be remembered as “someone who tried to help the county and did her homework.”

Announcing that she’d accepted a job as executive director of the Sacramento River Conservation Area Forum, she said she’s “not going to go home and watch the roses grow.” She’ll continue to help the Chapman neighborhood and will serve on the Library Advisory Board.

Several proclamations were read, and there were a couple of standing ovations. About a dozen people, including District Attorney Mike Ramsey, Chico Mayor Ann Schwab, county Fire Chief George Morris and county Farm Bureau Executive Director Colleen Cecil stepped to the podium to praise and congratulate Dolan, as did Ron Angle, speaking for the Chapman neighborhood, where Dolan did so much good work.

Perhaps new County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn said it best, however. “When I first got here,” he explained, “everybody told me, ‘Talk to Jane. Pick her brain. She knows everything.’ And they were right.”