Oak Valley: balance of interests

We applaud the Chico City Council’s very split decision to reopen to the public the hearings on the 340-acre Oak Valley subdivision that would place 1,300 housing units on land stretching from the recently remediated soils of the Humboldt Burn Dump east into the foothills.

Two weeks back the council’s liberal side, led by Councilmember Andy Holcombe and joined by swing vote and moderate Maureen Kirk, voted, in light of new information, to reconsider Tom Fogarty’s subdivision. Last May the council had tentatively approved the project by upholding the Planning Commission’s earlier approval, with some modifications, including moving down from the foothills 80 of the 160 houses slated for construction there.

The item appeared on the council’s consent agenda as the final step of the development process. But rather than usher it through without discussion, Holcombe pulled it and said he wanted to move the remaining 80 houses out of the foothills and cluster them in higher densities at lower elevations. He pointed to the dilemma of trying to follow a General Plan with potentially conflicting guidelines that, on one hand, clear the way for development in this area, and on the other hand call for the protection of the foothills. Indeed, this project would have creeped farther into the scenic hills than any that have come before.

This week the council majority, over objections of the conservatives, further modified the project by pulling the remaining 80 houses from the foothills.

We are puzzled by the conservative councilmembers’ argument that Fogarty’s plan deserves approval because it’s been in the making for 11 years. They intimated that the anti-growth factions on the council and in the community have held it up that long and put Fogarty and his plan through more than either deserves. In fact a big part of the 11-year delay has to do with the fact the project is slated to be built next to a contaminated dump site that remained toxic until just this year.

It all raises the question: Who do the councilmembers represent—the citizens of Chico or the developers who made contributions to council election campaigns?