A News Cafe Citizen Report: Notes From a Churn Creek Bottom Debate in Cottonwood

Note from Doni ~A News Cafe’s own Canda Williams, sales  and marketing representative, as well as a Lake California resident, attended last week’s debate about the proposed Churn Creek Bottom development, ‘Churn Creek Commons’, in Cottonwood.  Below is her citizen report and observations.

Where: Cottonwood Community Center

When:  May 2, 7 to 9 p.m.

Audience: Approximately 70-80 people.


Process: Moderator, Honorary Cottonwood Mayor Bradd Mc Dannold, read questions submitted by attendees. After an initial 8-minute presentation by each side, questions were asked, and each side had 5 minutes to respond. Before closing, each side had 5 minutes to make their case.

Proposed Churn Creek Commons

The public sat quietly with no audible reaction throughout the debate.

Representing Churn Creek Bottom Homeowners & Friends: Rod Evans, spokesperson for the Churn Creek Bottom Homeowners & Friends; retired policeman. Randy Carter, member of the Churn Creek Bottom Homeowners & Friends steering committee; retired firefighter. Ron Reece, member and supporter of the Churn Creek Bottom Homeowners & Friends; physician.

Representing Hawkins Companies Commercial Developers: Jeffery Hess – Hawkins’ Chief operating officer.

Moderator: Honorary Mayor of Cottonwood, Bradd Mc Dannold

From left, Rod Evans, spokesperson for Churn Creek Bottom Homeowners & Friends; Randy Carter, Churn Creek Bottom Homeowners & Friends steering committee member; Ron Reece, Churn Creek Bottom Homeowners & Friends  member and supporter.

The debate

Les Baugh, Shasta County Supervisor, District 5, introduced Mc Dannold, who set parameters for the debate. He reminded everyone to be civil

Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters, was present as a neutral party, there to explain Measures A & B.

She said Measure A is a referendum, and Measure B is an initiative.

With regard to a referendum, voters accept or reject laws they aren’t happy with. With regard to an initiative, a proposed new law is placed on the ballot by petition.

Back story

On Aug. 1, 2011, Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted to amend the general plan, and approve the building of Churn Creek Commons in Churn Creek Bottom.

According to California law, 6,500 signatures must be collected in order to file a referendum to overturn this vote. More than 11,000 signatures were collected and submitted to the Board of Supervisors, who then had the choice to either change their vote, or put it on the ballot for voters to decide. It will be on the June 5 ballot.

Those in favor of the proposed Churn Creek Commons development will vote YES on A.

Those opposed to the proposed mall will vote NO on A.

Approximately 70-80 people attended the Lake California debate.

A YES vote on B would freeze commercial development in Churn Creek Bottom until 2036.

A NO vote on B would allow the general plan to remain unchanged.

Each side had 8 minutes to speak before questions were posed to the panel.

Representing Hawkins Developers, Hess made the following points:

• The Hawkins family started the first Pac Out in Redding many years ago.

• The Hawkins company uses its own money for projects; no Wall Street money, no investors.

• Over a span of 18 months, Hawkins held town meetings with Churn Creek Bottom residents to address concerns.

• Traffic recirculation, reviewed by county and engineers, determined the mitigation is appropriate.

• They did not change the general plan, but matched up the general plan map to follow the project.

• There are more than 330,000 acres of farm land in Shasta County, and this project would consume .00025 percent of the county’s total designated agriculture area.

Representing the Churn Creek Bottom group, Rod Evans made the following points:

• This is important, not just to Churn Creek Bottom, but far more important to the city of Redding, because of the economic devastation it will face.

• The general plan has been in place for 28 years, and they ask to keep it in place for 24 more years.

• The Auto Mall proposed in 2007 was turned down for good reasons, and these reasons still exist:

ACID will not accept the storm water run-off

Traffic will be a huge problem, and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars

It would open the door to continued development and urban sprawl up to Redding

Developers should pay their own way, but for this project, tax payers would be on the hook to pay for the infrastructure.

Jeffrey L. Hess-Chief Operating Officer Hawkins Companies Commercial Developers

Below are 5 of the 8 questions posed to the panel:

Question 1: (Directed to Hess) – Did you ever have a failed shopping center or mall in Northern California?

A: Hess-“We haven’t had a failed center in 25 years. We’ve had a vacancy factor of 4 percent, versus the national average of 10 percent.”

Hess added that a number of stores have gone bankrupt, including many national stores.

(Evans responded that the Anderson Outlets are more than one-third empty, and several Redding retail sites are also vacant. There would be heavy competition for retail dollars, and if a few stores move out of a center to relocate to the new proposed center at Churn Creek Bottom, there will be a snowball effect that could further empty existing retail centers.)

Question #2: (Directed at CCBHOF) – Why are you opposed to creating 1,600 jobs?

A: Evans said that number is unverified. He acknowledged there will be jobs, but they would be more of a transfer, since many of the jobs would be filled by people who previously worked at stores that closed.

Evans added that the Churn Creek Bottom’s 45 acres have been farmed for 30 years.

A: Reece said that some car dealers said that when the proposed Auto Mall was voted down, it saved the car dealers from bankruptcy.

(Hess responded that the Hawkins company bought the empty Gottschalks, and then opened Sportsman’s Warehouse and Goodwill in that space. He agreed there may be some transfer of jobs. He clarified that the proposed Churn Creek Commons is neither a mall or outlet center, but a hybrid, which includes a center off Interstate 5 that provides entertainment, recreation and services for travelers.)

Question #3: (Directed to Hess)Will this tax revenue keep the jail open and criminals off the street?

A: Hess said that $2 million will go into the general fund, undesignated. He said the Deputy Sheriff supports this proposed project because $850,000 is designated for public safety.

(Evans stated that three deputy sheriffs and several staff people would be needed to police the facility. He said that the Redding Police Department responds to about 950 calls per year at the Mt. Shasta Mall.

Carter added that such a center would put an added strain on the fire department, and increase response times up to 10 minutes, which would be a great tap on emergency resources.)

Question #4: (Directed to Hess) – How does Measure B change the general plan that’s been in place since 1984?

A: Hess said this project is completely allowed by the general plan of 1975, and reaffirmed in 1984 and 1991. He said the general plan allows commercial development, and that zoning designations exist under the general plan. Hess said this would limit any rezoning from what exists there now, and stops rezoning of 5,000 acres.

(Evans responded that they do not want changes to the general plan. The county converted 86 acres from agriculture to commercial for this project. Bob Moore would be able to build his mill on his property even if Measure B passed.)

Question #5: (To Hess) How many jobs do you think this will produce?

A: Hess – 500 constructions jobs, with 80-85 percent from the Shasta County area. “Yes, some will be displaced, but our studies show the creation of 1,600 jobs.” 800 people applied for 80 jobs at Sportsman’s Warehouse.

(Carter commented that Redding is already a hub city, and is able to collect revenue. For people to travel out of town doesn’t make sense.)

In closing, each side had five minutes to make its case.

Evans made the following points:

• Guaranteed funding for this project has not been established.

• Mr. Hess has stated that Hawkins will pay 2.5 million dollars, but it will cost tens of millions of dollars for infrastructure.

• Contractors will most likely be regional contractors, rather than local ones.

Hess made the following points:

• Hawkins Co. has done everything possible to mitigate the burden on the taxpayers.

• Look at the facts, and the EIR statement

• It’s about jobs, public safety, and property rights

In a phone conversation with Cathy Darling-Allen after the debate, she said, “A majority of facts around this issue are debatable and are in contention, which makes it difficult to describe it in a neutral way.”

Canda Williams is a retired schoolteacher and proud grandma who lives in Lake California with her husband Don Williams. Canda is a marketing representative for anewscafe.com. She also has a home business that specializes in her customized personalized hooded bath towels for children and adults. For examples of her work vistit her website at www.candakay.com.

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