Farmers laud protection of the Greenline

City Council affirms ag land with general-plan policy

Ag land is important—that’s the message the Chico City Council hoped to reinforce with land-use decisions for the city general plan that upheld the integrity of the Greenline.

Message understood and, for local farmers, appreciated.

“It’s amazing how important the Greenline is,” said Francine Stuelpnagel of the agricultural collective GRUB, which farms a parcel located in one of the special planning areas under consideration.

“With the mark of a pen, they can change people’s lives. They were going to move the Greenline over from Estes Road [to the railroad tracks] and put our farm in the city. It was great that a few of the council members came out and saw our land is productive.”

The Estes SPA also includes Riparia, an organic-farming community. The council considered it long and hard at its Nov. 17 meeting to set general plan policy before keeping all that acreage outside the Greenline—in other words, dedicated to agriculture, not county land eyed for city development. Subsequent votes (i.e. Mud Creek and the Midway) followed suit.

“I’m delighted and relieved that they chose to save the Greenline in its present location,” Emily Alma, one of the founders and residents of Riparia, wrote in an e-mail. “There are other elements in the approved general plan that I’m disappointed about: Butte Creek Canyon is being opened up to inappropriate development, and other natural areas [are] as well.”

Indeed, Councilwoman Ann Schwab’s notion of a “gold line,” to protect the foothills along the city’s eastern boundary, did not stick.

Fortunately for farmers, the established western cordon did.

“The Greenline is protecting what we believe is Butte County and Chico’s biggest asset—prime farmland to grow food to feed our community and the world,” Colleen Cecil, executive director of the Butte County Farm Bureau, responded in an e-mail. “Chico and Butte County are part of a world class agricultural region that contributes not only to the economy but to the environment.

“We also understand growth is inevitable and that it is responsible and reasonable to evaluate our land-use decisions periodically. The inclusion of the Bell-Muir section into the planning area makes sense this time. The City Council understands the importance of our county’s farmland and reassured us of this with their recent decisions.

“We look forward to continued growth in agriculture over the life of the new general plan, just as the community looks forward to growth of the city. The Greenline will continue to allow both to happen collectively.”