Amid a packed Redding City Council meeting where the city staff reiterated its opposition to six luxury outpads proposed on a 440-lot Salt Creek Heights subdivision in west Redding, the council voted 3-1 to approve the full plan as proposed by developer Sierra Pacific Industries.
With council member Missy McArthur abstaining from the vote, council members Dick Dickerson, Rick Bosetti and Patrick Jones voted in favor of full approval of the Redding Planning Commission’s recommendation for the subdivision plan. Council member Mary Stegall was alone in her opposition to the plan, drawing a round of applause after describing how the measure sets a dangerous precedent for intrusions into the city’s greenway policy and also changes the appearance of the scenic canyon for the benefit of six homes.
McArthur sat out the vote because she’s part of a partnership that owns property just east of the proposed subdivision.
The outpads have drawn controversy because they branch away from the main portion of the proposed development into the greenway and much closer to Salt Creek. There are also concerns related to fire protection for the outpads.
The public comment on the agenda item opened with a presentation by SPI Land Development Manager Gary Blanc, and by Mike Dormer of the contracted engineering firm Sharrah Dunlap Sawyer. Nine public speakers then followed by voicing their opposition to the proposed outpads.
Stegall, who praised the majority of SPI’s development plans, said the controversial outpad lots, once built, will take away from the experience of hiking or biking in Salt Creek Canyon.
Once the luxury lots are built, hikers walking along Salt Creek will “look up and in some places see scraped ground and beautiful homes. Those six (homeowners) will have beautiful views and will love where they live, and they will win because they have the most toys.”
Everyone else would lose out on the pristine experience of Salt Creek, which will be visually and physically impacted by the six outpad lots, Stegall said.
Prior to voting for the approval of the subdivision, council member Dickerson said, he wouldn’t support the project if he felt it would negatively impact Salt Creek.
“There are mitigations in place to insure that this project does not have a negative impact on Salt Creek,” Dickerson said.
Redding resident Todd Slaughter addressed the council to say that bending the rules on greenway intrusions sets a bad precedent for the future of preserving greenways and open spaces.
“Does bending these rules benefit the community as a whole? That’s the issue you need to judge,” Slaughter said.
Prior to the vote, council member Stegall mentioned that Redding’s natural beauty, which includes open spaces and greenways, is a common refrain from residents about why they love living in the area. Disallowing home development along certain portions of the Sacramento River has allowed thousands of others to enjoy access to the river, Stegall added.
Redding resident David Ledger said he worried that opening one side of Salt Creek Canyon to development could soon bring on development on the other side of the canyon, thus further impacting the greenway.
During their expanded statement period, Sierra Pacific’s Blanc said his company has reached a tentative agreement with the Bureau of Land Management to establish a Salt Creek corridor trail easement that would help protect the canyon area. Walking trail improvements would be a part of that agreement.
Council member Bosetti praised the developer for a subdivision plan that was much lower in home density than what could have been approved on the site. The Salt Creek Heights plan also calls for a large park and other pockets of open space.
Related to a question about the importance of the six outpad lots by council member Dickerson, Sierra Pacific’s Blanc acknowledged that the featured lots are of key importance to the development.
“Clearly they are the signature to this project,” he said. “Retaining these outpads is essential to this project.”
City employees’ retirement
In a busy evening for the council that stretched well past midnight, the council also voted 3-2 to approve a initiative to ask voters to help establish an opening bargaining position with labor unions to negotiate what portion city workers should pay into their California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
Council member Dickerson argued that the measure would be a waste of time and money. The council could decide on an opening bargaining position tonight without spending in excess of $50,000 to put a pair of measures on the November ballot.
“It’s just ludicrous to do this,” Dickerson said. “Nothing in this ballot measure will expedite the process. It just doesn’t do anything.”
Stegall also voted against the initiative, but Bosetti, Patrick Jones and Missy McArthur formed a majority on the vote. The three said the measures were needed to control costs of an unfunded $85 million liability for retiree health insurance.
Jones said we’re all living in “tough, unfortunate, unprecedented times” that require action to control costs.
Turtle Bay’s hotel plan
The evening also included a 4-1 approval to allow for a change to Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s lease, which would allow the museum to pursue its plans to build a 125-room hotel on its property.
Turtle Bay Board member Arch Pugh told the council that the hotel is a critical step toward securing a self-sustaining venture, especially in light of the city cutting its annual contribution to the park.
“We’re developing ways to become self-sufficient,” he said. “That land is viable to our future.”
Pugh added that the park is having to cut 10 positions and health benefits of others to stay financially intact.
Also on Tuesday night:
• The council voted unanimously to certify the Bikeway Action Plan allowing for safe bike corridors throughout the city.
• Voted 4-1 to favor a privatized service agreement between Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association and Redding Tourism Marketing Group.
• Voted to amend a lease agreement with the Shasta Regional Soccer Association.
• Voted to endorse a veterans museum to be built at the Redding Airport. Plans are underway for a 16-acre, $20 million museum that would be funded by non-profit veterans organizations.
Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.