Voice of the ’hoods
Residents speak out about plans that affect their environs
Separate issues surrounding some distinct neighborhoods and their passionate residents dominated a marathon meeting of the Chico City Council Tuesday evening (Aug. 19). By the end of the gathering that ended just before 11 p.m., the council was able to take substantive action on only one of the controversial agenda items.
First up, the panel tackled an appeal of the city Planning Commission’s decision denying a local recycling company a request for a use permit. That company, Basik Recycling, had for several years been operating out of compliance with the light-manufacturing zone in south Chico’s Barber Neighborhood, creating code enforcement issues related to noise, dust and vibrations. Dylan McFann, the facility’s owner, filed an appeal back in June, following the commission’s decision.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, 15 nearby residents urged the council to deny the appeal. Sienna Orlando Lalaguna, who purchased a home on West 22nd Street a few years ago, detailed the disruptions to her family’s life. She said the neighboring company should take its operations indoors as is called for by its zoning or move to a site where its current activities can be accommodated.
“We’re not asking for them to go out of business,” she said. “We’re just asking for our neighborhood to be peaceful.”
Jeff Carter, McFann’s attorney, told the panel that the company had already amended its operations so that the only outdoor activities at the property would now involve collecting recyclables from members of the public (as opposed to the commercial processing that required an excavator). He noted that operating as a so-called “clutching facility” is allowed without permitting and that he believed the property would qualify as such. However, that had yet to be been determined by staff.
As Community Development Director Mark Wolfe explained, the council had two options for denying the use permit. A “standard” denial would call for an immediate halt to nonpermitted operations and prohibit the company from submitting an application for a similar use permit for one year. If the denial comes “without prejudice,” however, Basik could immediately come back with an application.
A motion by Councilman Sean Morgan and seconded by Vice Mayor Mark Sorensen to deny the use permit without prejudice failed on a 2-to-5 vote. Sorensen immediately thereafter made the motion to uphold the Planning Commission’s denial of the use permit. The council then voted 7-0 in support.
The evening’s other neighborhood controversy involved the Chapman-Mulberry districts, unincorporated “islands” within Chico that the Local Agency Formation Commission has been pressing the city to annex for many years. The issue came to a head last winter, when LAFCo, which oversees annexations, threatened legal action should the city not enter into a binding annexation agreement.
Another issue stems from LAFCo’s position that, under state law, properties that hook up to city sewer should be annexed. According to a staff report, over the years, the city has connected 62 properties to the sewer without annexing them—and without obtaining LAFCo’s authorization or paying its fees.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the council was asked to consider entering into an annexation agreement. According to Wolfe, it would obligate the city to submit an application for annexation of the two neighborhoods. It also would resolve the issues surrounding the unauthorized sewer hookups and establish a procedure to handle future extensions.
Here’s the rub: The neighborhoods’ residents, at least the ones who showed up at the meeting, don’t want to be annexed to the city.
Mulberry District resident Donald Cook noted that the city is struggling to pay for police and fire services, and it cannot maintain the roads, so he would rather his property stay in the county. “I can’t really see what I’m going to gain from it,” he said. “I don’t want sidewalks, I don’t want gutters. I like my little island in the county.” Similar input came from about a dozen others.
Former Butte County Supervisor Jane Dolan, who represented the neighborhoods for more than 30 years and served for many years on LAFCo, also weighed in on the issue. Dolan charged that the residents, “not a bureaucratic self-selected committee,” should be able to decide whether their neighborhood was annexed. “That is an allowed process of LAFCo,” she said. “This annexation disenfranchises the community and ignores their right under due process to learn, discuss and decide.”
After further discussion from the dais, the council voted 7-0 to table the item until such time that the panel could determine the potential impacts of the agreement and all property owners were notified of the potential for annexation.