Turnabout Dept.

Council changes mind on Tuscan Village

TRIANGLE POWER<br>After nixing a proposed general plan amendment and rezone for this parcel off Eaton Road last October, the City Council this week changed its mind.

After nixing a proposed general plan amendment and rezone for this parcel off Eaton Road last October, the City Council this week changed its mind.

Perseverance furthers, as Steve Schuster will attest.

On Tuesday (Aug. 7), the developer got a big part of what he and partner Don Scott have been seeking for several years, when a narrow 4-3 majority of the Chico City Council approved a general plan amendment and rezone of the 18.3 acres in north Chico on which he wants to build his Tuscan Village subdivision. Nine months ago, in early October 2006, the council had nixed the changes following a stormy and confusing public hearing.

The triangular property, which is bounded on the north by Eaton Road and on the west by Morseman Avenue, was originally zoned to include a 3.5-acre commercial core. Doubt about the core’s feasibility was expressed at the 2006 hearing, but no study had been done. So the council, confronted by insistent neighbors worried that the changes would allow higher density, said no to the general plan amendment and rezone.

Since then both Schuster and the city have done economic-feasibility studies of the site, and both have determined that it’s a no-go for commercial. In May the council voted, 5-2, to rehear the proposal.

Several neighbors, disappointed that they were back to square one, again spoke against the changes, stressing especially the traffic impacts the development would have. But Matt Johnson, a senior development engineer with the city, said analysis had shown that the impacts would be within acceptable limits.

Schuster said he’d agreed with the neighbors to limit the total number of units on the site to 155.

Councilman Scott Gruendl made an impassioned call for defending the integrity of the general plan. The neighborhood core concept, he said, had been designed to provide residents with amenities they could walk to. Holding up the feasibility studies, he exclaimed, “There are only two sentences that deal with pedestrians in here. … This is a monument to using vehicles.”

Mayor Andy Holcombe, however, said he agreed about protecting the general plan and fostering walkability but thought this particular case was “a site-specific exception.” The current general plan update should and will address the larger issue of where to put pedestrian-friendly commercial centers in the area, he said.

Councilmembers Tom Nickell and Mary Flynn agreed with Gruendl and voted against the changes.

The parcel now is designated R-2 (medium-density residential) with a planned-development overlay, which subjects it to greater scrutiny by the Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board, Planning Services Director Steve Peterson explained. It’s next stop will be the Planning Commission, which will consider the project itself.