Meghdadi project gets life extension:
As the city continues to duke it out in court with a developer who may or may not have cut down more oak trees than he was allowed to, the City Council has agreed to extend by one year the life of the plans for the three projects that make up the Terra Bella development.In March 2002 developer Andrew Meghdadi ’s crew took chainsaws to more than 100 oak trees on his southeast Chico housing development project. Over the roar of the saws and the thuds of the trees, neighbors called the city, which responded by telling the crew to stop cutting down the trees. The City Council tried to punish Meghdadi; he in turn sued the city. Now it’s tied up in court.

The subdivision maps were due to expire in January, throwing a new monkey wrench into the legal gears by putting the whole project back to square one. The city wants to settle the lawsuit, and the houses are needed to increase inventory in a town where housing costs are skyrocketing. Meghdadi wants to build. Who pays for what and how the matter is resolved is still up in the air.

Beetles trump building:
Mark Abouzeid ’s plan to tear down an 80-year-old building on South Main so he can expand his Volkswagen car lot was approved by the Chico City Council this week, against the recommendations of city staff and the Planning Commission as well as the wishes of the Chico Heritage Association. Abouzeid, who purchased the lot from longtime car dealer A. Volpato a few years back, told staff he needed to increase the lot capacity from 19 vehicles to 40 vehicles. Staff said OK. Then Abouzeid came back and said he wanted 69 spaces, which required the demolition of a building on the southeast section of his property.The Planning Commission turned down his request on a 4-3 vote. Abouzeid appealed to the City Council. Armed with letters of support from other downtown businesses, the Downtown Chico Business Association and Police Chief Bruce Hagerty , the VW dealer convinced the council to go his way on a unanimous vote. Planning Director Kim Seidler said that, while the building had little historical significance, its existence enhanced the downtown appearance and, more important, helped promote the “pedestrian orientation” the city’s General Plan calls for.

Planning Commissioner Kirk Monfort , who voted against the proposal when it came before the commission, argued that just because a business is successful it should not be allowed to expand to the detriment of the surrounding area.

Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan acknowledged Monfort’s concerns but said he was confident that physical constraints of the area would not allow Abouzeid to expand much more, and the council voted for the proposal.

Supes drink COLA: Tucked at the end of an item on Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors consent agenda was a 2.9 percent salary raise for the board members. The item was passed without discussion, as the raise amounted to only about $841 a year. That brings the supes’ salaries up to about $29,000. According to Jane Dolan, this is only the second raise for board members in five years, when the grand jury last set the amount. The board’s salary increases are tied to those of Superior Court judges, and the state Legislature determines the timing and amount of those.