Supes laugh, cry their way through county business

The Butte County Board of Supervisors started off its regular meeting Tuesday, June 10, in a fantastic mood, laughing and joking about all kinds of things. Then, about 20 minutes into the meeting, County Administrative Officer Paul McIntosh gave his usual budget summary, and everyone’s mood went south.

Warning of possible general-fund revenue losses totaling more than $3.4 million, McIntosh implied that the county was likely to be in budgetary limbo until the governor and state legislators can break their politically motivated impasse. Last year, it wasn’t until September that a state budget was adopted. Butte County has already “rolled over” last year’s budget into this year’s as a means of dealing with the uncertainty.

“Not a bright and cheery scenario,” McIntosh offered, after detailing possible revenue losses from vehicle licensing fees (the biggest possible loss at $2.4 million), library foundation grants, flood control funds, MediCal reimbursements and cancelled transportation projects.

Paradise Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi spoke for the whole room after McIntosh’s report.

“Gee, we started out so jolly this morning,” he said. “[Now we’ve] sobered right up.”

The supes somehow managed to go on, however, revisiting developer John Byrne’s proposed subdivision near Eaton Road, which the board had continued at its last meeting. The proposal has been on a planning merry-go-round, oscillating between the county Planning Department and the Airport Land Use Commission, which supposedly told Byrne that his development could fly only if he met a minimum density requirement of four homes per acre. Having submitted a plan for 36 homes on close to 10 acres, Byrne appeased the commission by agreeing to add four more homes, to be built at a later date. But, pointed out county lawyer Bruce Alpert, making that change would require the project to pass an entirely new planning review.

The plot thickened when somebody noticed that the lot the four phantom homes were to have been built on was slated on the planning map as a sewage processing facility for the subdivision. Byrne had said at one point that he negotiated with the city to hook up to Chico’s sewer system, but this week he admitted that wasn’t going to happen, even though Chico Supervisor Jane Dolan said the city had recently voted to annex the property, which would require it to provide sewer service.

“I’m always amazed that city employees don’t seem to know what’s happening on all the floors of the [city] building,” Dolan said.

Byrne said he was sticking with the 36-home plan this time and was willing to wait until ALUC had a chance to clarify its position. The whole thing was scheduled to return to the board Aug. 26.