The general plan update is complete

The vision of the city of Chico for 2030 is now up for public review

This week, Brendan Vieg let out a long-awaited sigh of relief. With more than a year of work behind him, the city of Chico’s principal planner was able to close the book on the draft general plan update. The 350-page document was finally finished.

“It’s an exciting time,” Vieg said by phone Wednesday, the day the city unveiled the plan. “Now it’s time to re-engage the community. Let’s get people involved.”

The general plan outlines the collective vision of numerous city agencies, community-involvement groups and individuals through the year 2030. Where will the city grow? How will it aid the economy? What sorts of infrastructure changes will have to be made to facilitate growth?

“The general plan guides public decision-making,” explained Vieg, the plan’s project manager. “It directs the city’s resources, both staff and financial.”

While planners will accept comments on the document into 2011, the next few months will mark an informal public-comment period for the draft document. The Planning Services Department hopes that the comment period, which will go through June 21, will give staff time to sift through comments, compile them and bring them to the City Council and Planning Commission as a cohesive package. The document is expected to be finalized in spring 2011.

Below is a breakout of some of the most important issues, as well as those that will cause the most chatter, in the general-plan update.

• “The vision is to both preserve what we love about our community but also grow thoughtfully to meet the needs of a growing community,” Vieg said.

Indeed, the GP’s “overall vision” states: “Chico, in the year 2030, is a livable, healthy, and sustainable community that offers a high quality of life with a strong sense of community and place. Chico maintains its small-town character while providing opportunities for future generations to thrive.”

• One of the guiding principles of the 2030 plan not included in the previous plan from 1994 is sustainability.

“Sustainability in Chico means maintaining a culture of stewardship to enhance our natural environment, economic strength, and quality of life for present and future generations,” the document reads. “The General Plan’s goals, policies and actions are intended to work together to achieve sustainability.”

“The overarching theme is the sustainability element,” Vieg said. “The notion is that there’s an opportunity to balance a healthy economy, healthy environment and social opportunities. We need to protect our sensitive resources, but we still need to have an environment where businesses can thrive.”

• Identifying growth areas tends to get people talking, Vieg said. The plan does just that, outlining areas on the edge of town that will be good for growth as well as underutilized spots ideal for infill.

In creating new areas for people to live, Vieg said, the emphasis will be on developing complete neighborhoods, where homes will be close to job opportunities and services.

• As a result of growth, Chico’s infrastructure will have to change as well. The plan outlines possible road connections to accommodate new neighborhoods. Traffic, Vieg said, is always a controversial topic.

• “The plan also seeks to grapple with the whole issue of greenhouse gases and climate change,” Vieg said. “It calls for the city to be a leader, leading by example with energy efficiency and waste diversion.”

The plan tends to incentivize rather than mandate private businesses to follow suit.

• “We haven’t really broached the Greenline here,” Vieg said. “I anticipate preservation of agriculture will be a big issue.”

Vieg will formally present the general plan to the City Council at its April 6 meeting.

Members of the public who wish to obtain a copy of the general-plan update can visit for a PDF, or they can pick up a free CD-ROM containing the document at the Planning Services Department at 411 Main St. Hard copies are also available at the Chico Branch Library, Meriam Library on the Chico State campus and at the Planning Services Department.

The first public meeting dedicated to discussing the general plan will be May 11 in City Council chambers and will be an overview of the document.