Trouble on Tradewinds Court

CASTLE OR COTTAGE?<br>The owner of these two houses, a day-care operator, wants to merge them into one, an idea that has neighbors livid.

The owner of these two houses, a day-care operator, wants to merge them into one, an idea that has neighbors livid.

Photo By Robert Speer

There’s an ill wind blowing on Tradewinds Court.

The court is a tiny cul-de-sac—only seven homes—in northeast Chico, off Lexington Drive between Floral and Eaton avenues. Residents of this quiet, middle-class neighborhood thought they were buying their little slice of the American Dream when they chose to buy homes there.

Neighbors know each other on a first-name basis, they greet each other with smiles and nods, and there have been relatively few problems—until now, that is.

Jessica Haggard runs a family day-care business, which she established nine years ago, in her home at the end of the cul-de-sac. There she cares for up to 14 children, the maximum she can have without obtaining a use permit to operate a day-care center. There’s a large van parked outside for shuttling children to and from school.

Haggard’s neighbors don’t mind the day care, saying the children aren’t the problem. They stay inside or play in the backyard, and they certainly don’t run around in the middle of the street.

Their parents are another matter. They speed up and down the street, the neighbors complain, rushing to drop off or pick up their children. About 30 cars come through each day, most of them going 30-40 mph and ignoring the stop signs.

This has built up some resentment over time, but a recent development has turned that resentment into anger. Neighbors learned that Haggard had bought the vacant house next to her property and merged the two properties.

The city has approved her plan to build an addition that would join the two houses, making them into one. Also, Pacific Gas and Electric has agreed to abandon a utility easement between the two houses. At the end of last month, the only hurdle Haggard still had to jump was getting city approval of the easement abandonment.

That’s when the neighbors got wind of her plans and stepped in to stop them.

The City Council was to hear the matter and make a decision at its Sept. 4 meeting. When neighbors showed up to voice their concerns, the council decided to take a closer look at the project and postponed its decision until Oct. 2.

Nobody in the neighborhood knew of the merged lots and of Haggard’s plans to connect the properties until Randy Jamison, whose property is next to the vacant house, saw some public-meeting fliers posted on telephone poles a few days before the City Council meeting. Jamison rallied the neighbors in an effort to save what he calls “my serenity and my quality of life.”

“She’s planning to build a 5,642-square-foot home,” he said. “That would allow for a lot more space. She can only have up to 14 kids now, but all of it could change.” Like many of the neighbors, he worries that Haggard intends to open a full-fledged day-care center.

Haggard contends the neighbors have chosen to single her out and turned her personal matters public. She has no plans to expand to a day-care center even if she builds a larger home, she said, adding she just wants a house with a three-car garage in which she and her family can all park their cars.

If anything, she points out, she’s been living on Tradewinds longer than some of the neighbors -­ seven years (Jamison has been there for less than three). What she does and how many children are in her home, she insists, are no one else’s business. Jamison and other neighbors are just making a big deal out of nothing.

It is a big deal when someone’s house looks out of character with the rest of the neighborhood, said Nancy von Moos, who lives nearby. Haggard’s new house will be three to five times larger than any other house in the area.

It will look like a castle among cottages, von Moos charges, and will lower property values in the area. “Nobody wants their property value reduced based on one person’s whim,” von Moos said.

Neighbors are also worried that if the City Council approves Haggard’s project, it could serve as a precedent for other homeowners looking to expand their properties.

“I don’t know how [the city] let this get this far, but if she gets it her way it’s going to be opening the same door throughout Chico,” Jamison said.

Not necessarily, said Councilman Larry Wahl. Each case that comes before the Council is taken on an individual basis. Wahl said that, since the Sept. 4 meeting, he’d visited the neighborhood to look at the two properties.

The council will give Haggard a chance to discuss her plans, he said. The neighbors’ concerns will also be taken into consideration before the council makes a decision at its upcoming meeting.

Jamison and von Moos both said they and many other neighbors will be present to voice their opinions.

“We could’ve bought anywhere, but we chose this neighborhood,” Jamison said. “Our property is what we see as our American Dream, and we’re going to protect it.”