Supervisors, ALUC butt heads on Chico housing plans
Relations between the county’s Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) and the Board of Supervisors have never been rosy. But a pair of proposed developments recently sidelined by the board highlight the gap in vision between the two bodies. At least one of those developments, the commission maintains, has the potential to seriously curtail operations at Chico Municipal Airport.
The Sierra Moon subdivision, a 229-acre housing development that borders the northeast side of the airport, has commissioners and residents alike nervous.
The neighbors of the proposed site say the development will bring traffic, noise and congestion to nearby Spyglass Road, a cul-de-sac that plans call for extending through to Hicks Lane. Airport commissioners say the development puts too many residents under a well-used flight path.
Sierra Moon may be a new name, but the project is at least five years old. Originally proposed by Robert and Ann Stephens and known as the Stephens Project, the subdivision has always been controversial. After the board approved the project in 1998, The Airport Land Use Commission and California Pilots Association sued the county, claiming the board overstepped their bounds when it overrode the wishes of the ALUC. That suit was finally decided in favor of the board in January, giving the green light to Steve Schuster, the current property owner, to develop the land.
Tom Hall, a student pilot, neighborhood resident and local business owner, said that if the development goes through, Chico’s airport stands to lose practically everything.
“If there are noise complaints, or, God forbid, if a plane crashes into someone’s back yard, the FAA could step in and pull their funding,” Hall said. “We could lose our tower, and if we lose our tower, we lose AeroUnion, we lose Federal Express.”
Worse, that area has a significant probability of having a plane crash there. According to a crash probability map Hall obtained from the ALUC, the area of the subdivision shows 12 spots where a computer model showed probabilities of crashes.
Brian Baldridge, ALUC commissioner and former North Valley Pilots Association president, said the probability of a crash was low, but the probability that people living in homes beneath a flight path would complain about noise was very high.
Other California airports have been forced to close early or drastically alter flight plans and cut back hours of operation due to noise complaints, he said, adding that the airport is essential to Chico’s economic growth.
“Put anything there but bedrooms,” Baldridge said. “[Housing near the airport] hurts the future of Chico.”
Sierra Moon was delayed two weeks at the last meeting of the county Development Review Committee and will come back up for approval May 22.
The other development that has caused turbulence between the supes and ALUC recently is a project being pushed by developer John Byrne, who wants to build 40 homes on about 10 acres near Eaton Road. At last Tuesday’s supervisors’ meeting, Byrne told the board that the ALUC had pushed him into meeting a density requirement, which added four homes to his 36-home project. But since those four homes were not officially listed as part of the project, the board was forced to turn Byrne away, continuing the matter until June 10.
While supervisors Bob Beeler and Curt Josiassen both apologized to Byrne for delaying his project, the two Chico supervisors, Mary Anne Houx and Jane Dolan, said the ALUC should stop trying to make planning decisions for the board.