Land Use For Taxes: Churn Creek Bottom Shopping Center Benefits are Short-lived, Short-Sighted

Unfortunately, it appears that at least some people involved in local government do not understand what a bad idea it is to allow short term fiscal gains to dictate long term land use policy. What that does is to create land use that makes no sense except to those who will benefit directly from the decision. Generally, they will only be around for the short term. Frequently such land use is approved by those who are supposed to be looking out for the long term good of the community only because of short term fiscal gains for the particular political body they represent.

The most recent example of this kind of policy error is the approval of a large shopping center in Churn Creek Bottom. The primary direct beneficiary of this decision will be the out of state developer who will make a ton of money out of the project. There will be some short term benefit for the people who do the construction, some of whom will probably be from this community. There will be a number of relatively low paying retail jobs created there, many of which will be filled by people leaving relatively low paying retail jobs in adjoining areas either because the business they work for has moved to the new center or has been undone by competition from similar businesses in the new center. There may be a net gain in these relatively low paying jobs, but that will be more than off set by the economic havoc that will be suffered by other businesses.

Long term residents will recall that the core of downtown was turned into the Mid Town Mall in the early 70’s as a redevelopment project. The sales tax revenue from the retail businesses there was supposed to pay for the parking structure that was constructed along California Street. As that was being planned, Shasta County approved the Mt. Shasta Mall. That company immediately lured JC Penny’s from its location at the south end of the planned Mid Town Mall by giving Penny’s the land on which to construct a bigger store than they had downtown. That started an exodus that resulted in the downtown falling on evil days from which it has only recently started to recover. The effect was to transfer sales tax revenue from the City of Redding to Shasta County. That lasted for a few years until the city annexed the part of the county the MSM occupied.

The Churn Creek project has one advantage for the county which seems to have trumped all other concerns: Sales tax revenue that is generated there will go to the county. That seems to have completely overcome legitimate objections about what it will do to the rural nature of the area, how it will create adverse traffic issues, its effect on the environment and what it will very likely do to existing businesses. If the project goes through, it will completely change the look and feel of a lovely piece of real estate permanently. It may be that is a good thing, but I don’t think so – but that is just my opinion.

What I know is this:

The Board of Supervisors did not approve it because it was good long term planning. It was approved as a revenue generating vehicle.

Those who looked at it from a “Is it good for the community in the long run?” seem pretty much in agreement that it is not.

The economic benefits will be short lived. The county will have to provide police and fire protection. The streets will have to be maintained and so forth and so on. A number of studies tend to show that expansive, spread out development becomes a burden over time. Why do you think the City of Redding built the now closed fire station on Placer Street?

There will be more vacant retail space in Redding. My guess is that most of that will be along Hilltop, Churn Creek and Dana. I doubt that it will have much effect on the downtown because businesses that wanted to be in strip mall locations have had no lack of locations to choose from up to now. I expect that Anderson will take a hit as well.

Another opinion: The idea that there will be a lot of business dragged off of I-5 is simply wishful thinking. Somebody ought to hire a limo to take the Board of Supervisors to the outlet stores in Anderson to see the number of vacancies there, reminding them that Ralph Lauren has announced it is throwing in the towel, even though the last time I checked, it had not yet closed. Redding is not like Vacaville. The large development there has a sizeable local population to draw from. In addition, if you are leaving the Bay Area, you are in the early stages of your trip, so stopping may seem more reasonable. If you are going to the Bay Area, you are close to the end of your trip, so you may be less resistant to a stop.

Why is the stage of the trip important? Caveat: I have no data gathered in any scientific way to back this up, but I suspect the Supes don’t have any either, which is the issue. I would expect that most people who are on I-5 are from some distance away and are not headed for anywhere around here. Note the number of license plates from Oregon and Washington that you see on the freeway. My experience is that a significant number of people who are in the middle of a long trip are not interested in stopping to go shopping. Someone driving from the Bay or Sacramento areas is going to be 2-5 hours into a trip that is going to take several more hours when they get here. Stopping for anything besides food, fuel and a bathroom break is not going to be on the agenda. They just want to get where they are going and get the drive over with. If anyone has data about that either way, it would be interesting to see it.

The bottom line here is that land use decisions should not be driven by short term tax revenue. The leaders of the Cities of Redding, Anderson and Shasta Lake need to sit down with the county leaders and hammer out an agreement that equitably splits up the tax baby so that decisions like this can be made on a what is best for the community basis and not in order to shift tax revenue from one political entity to another.

Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. The offices of Barr and Mudford, LLP, are at 1824 Court St. in Redding and can be reached at 243-8008.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Dugan Barr

Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or dugan@ca-lawyer.com.

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