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Churn Creek Bottom Residents Deliver Petitions Protesting Shopping Mall

Opponents of a shopping mall planned for the Churn Creek Bottom area south of Redding delivered petitions bearing 11,329 signatures — far more than the 6,500 needed — to the Shasta County Elections Department today (Aug. 30). Below, read what some of the approximately 70 people gathered had to say:

Cynthia Ogrey, 68, public health nurse and Churn Creek Bottom resident since 1997: I think we’ll have more traffic, more people wandering through our neighborhoods and it will change our whole rural feel. It’s going to be a significant change for us. My thought is that if you left to a populated area, and you wanted to move to a rural area, why would you suddenly want to put all the Trader Joe’s and all the other things that you left back there? I just don’t understand that theory. We’re in our 60s and 70s and we probably won’t be spending the next 50 years there. But what are we going to leave our children?”

Tom Reents, 61, Churn Creek Bottom resident and farmer: “We have very little farmland in Shasta County. That farmland is very special. It was formed by years and years of floods before Shasta Dam. That’s how all that soil got there. My top soil is 16 feet deep where I live and then there’s the water. My walnut trees reach the water and they use about 150 gallons of water a day each. So I don’t have to irrigate very much because they’re down in that water. I grow just about everything; watermelons, squash, peaches and walnuts. I take very good care of the land and plow it in every fall. You can go to the 99-cent store and you can find produce from China, and we can grow it here.

“They (Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors) don’t seem to care about the farming aspect or the problems that the mall will cause us. They only seem to care about one thing, and that is tax money. And I believe that tax money would be taken away from the cities to the county. It’s not new money, it’s just money that gets moved around … I think a lot of people are from out of the area and they don’t want this area to look like where they came from. I came from Sacramento and it’s just wall-to-wall businesses, houses and people. You can’t even find an open, natural area – or any open area – and I just think people don’t move up here for that kind of lifestyle. One of the reasons we got so many signatures is that people recognize that it’s ridiculous to build more stores when we have so many that are empty.”

Co-organizer Rod Evans, 63, of Redding, about the petition’s aim: “The purpose is to qualify for both an initiative and a referendum for ballot measures in the future. And that would occur on January 5th, 2012 when all citizens of Shasta County would have an opportunity (to vote) on two measures we anticipate – that would be a referendum to overturn the Board of Supervisors’ decision last August 2nd to approve the shopping center in Churn Creek Bottom, certify the EIR and to change the General Plan and the zoning from part-time Agriculture to Commercial.

“The initiative is separate and would actually protect that same land and the land surrounding it in Churn Creek Bottom for a period of 25 years. What it would do by protecting it is simply say that the current General Plan could not be altered or changed. People can still develop their land … people can still commercially develop the land at that location, just in a reasonable size. We’re not saying ‘no’ to everything; (we’re saying) just keep it within the General Plan. Which falls within the long term planning document that the citizens and county agreed to long ago on the way our area should be planned.”

Redding Councilmember Patrick Jones: “I know these are tough times and the county and city are very concerned with capturing as much needed revenue as possible, but there’s a right way to do this to minimize the impact for the neighbors and this was not the right way. I’m very happy to see that the public has taken the time not only to come out and support but also to put this on the ballot and let the Supervisors know just what they think. I think this is going to show poorly for the supervisors. Especially for the supervisors that this is their district and they didn’t stand with the people on this.”

Jones, regarding the difference between Churn Creek Bottom and the Oasis Road project: “For me at the city and from my colleagues at the city, one of our top priorities to finish the infrastructure required at Oasis, it was a very similar type of I-5 interchange. The difference there was the surrounding land was mere rock and not valuable bottomland. And we didn’t have a homeowner’s association saying “No.” But it took us many, many, many years to go through and get CalTrans’ approval, to get a project study report done and finished, to get EIRs signed and completed. It’s not fair that we did all the work but the County chooses not to. It’s not right, it’s not fair, and it’s not appropriate. And they would be litigated one way the other over this mess – and certainly we will see litigation from this. Besides what we see today, I guarantee you, as we speak, litigation is being prepared. By whom? That will follow.”

More from co-organizer Rod Evans: “We need to look at real economics here. Number one, look around at all the empty retail space we currently have all around the county. The developer stated this would create revenue for the county, and in fact that may be true. It would create revenue strictly for the county – not for the whole county – but just for the unincorporated county, not for the cities. So when that happens, most likely, stores in Redding or Anderson would be closing, or prospective stores would not be opening within our cities but opening at the newest shopping center that looks the best. It’s going to be a shift of jobs and revenue to one side of the line from within the cities to the other side of the line to the county. I think that is a bad way to plan it. I think that the county and the cities need to arrive at a revenue and sales-tax sharing agreement where the planning wouldn’t then be dictated by who can grab the commercial properties and put them on their side of the line … That’s faulty thinking.”

Interviews and photographs by Alan Ernesto Phillips.

Alan Ernesto Phillips is a proud son of Shasta County, a proud father of two daughters, and a local musician. He is a parenting educator, chemical-dependency counselor, victim-awareness counselor and developmental-asset builder and trainer. He also is a Clio and Telly award-winning filmmaker who produced and directed political campaigns for congressmen, senators, governors and one president (Ronald Reagan). His clients also included Coca-Cola, NIKE, CBS News and NOVA documentaries. He is a current board member and public affairs officer for the Northern California Hispanic Latino Coalition.

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