Redding City Council OKs Massive Bethel Church and Campus Project

Pleased with the robust dialogue, which featured 28 speakers spread over 90 minutes, and satisfied the substantial traffic and water-supply impacts have been dealt with, the Redding City Council voted unanimously to uphold approval of Bethel’s massive 39-acre, $96 million church and school complex on Collyer Drive.

Tuesday’s 4-0 vote denied an appeal of the Planning Commission’s Sept. 26 approval of the project. Councilwoman Julie Winter, a Bethel Church elder, recused herself from the two-hour discussion and vote. The city received 21 individual appeals of the commission’s approval; 17 cited traffic concerns and 12 expressed concerns over water supplies from the Bella Vista Water District.

A site map of the proposed Bethel Church Collyer Campus. Photos by Jon Lewis.

Of the 28 who addressed the council, 16 were either in support of the church or neutral and 12 were opposed.

Joe Chimenti, executive director of the Shasta Builders Exchange, spoke in support of the project. He said the significant impacts were adequately addressed in the 279-page environmental impact report (EIR), including some $10 million in traffic improvements on Churn Creek Road, College View Drive, Collyer Drive and Highway 299.

Chimenti and others noted Bethel Church’s role as an economic development engine for the Redding community and cited the number of jobs the new church and campus will generate. Bethel, which has been in Redding since 1949, “is the quintessential startup,” Chimenti said.

Des Comer spoke in opposition, telling the council that legitimate concerns have been “glossed over.” Her chief concern is Bethel’s impact on housing inventory and rental rates. She said rising rents forced her to move from a neighborhood near the current Bethel campus. While living there, she said neighboring homes rented to Bethel students were often packed with five to eight people per bedroom. An even larger school would just add to the housing crunch, she said.

Redding business owner Mimi Moseley said she is not a member of Bethel Church but is a firm supporter of the project. She said she’s met hundreds of people from around the world who have been attracted to Redding because of Bethel, and their contributions to the community are priceless.

Michael Thomas, who lives on Ridgewood Road just west of the project, said he had concerns over traffic and water until he attended some of the informational meetings hosted by Bethel. He said he now supports the project. He called for a halt to the “endless criticism” Bethel receives.

Alice Forbes countered that an additional 2,500 vehicles a day is a major impact, and so is already low water pressure experienced by Bella Vista water customers in the neighborhood. In addition, she said the responses to concerns in the EIR were patronizing.

Russ Wenham, a project engineer with Omni-Means of Redding who authored the EIR, said Bethel’s project has been the subject of 40 technical studies over a span of four years that has generated a stack of reports 41/2 inches thick. “We aren’t here to fight, we’re here to do honorable work. All the significant impacts have been mitigated,” Wenham said.

Bethel representative Charlie Harper said the project has been the focus of nine public meetings since 2013 and that the church voluntarily ordered the time-consuming and expensive EIR. “It is not our desire to cut corners,” Harper said.

In explaining his support of the project, Councilman Brent Weaver said he was encouraged by the public input and impressed with the work turned in by the technical experts and city staff. The appeal before the council “is not a debate about Bethel’s beliefs” but a question of whether the church has adequately addressed the environmental issues.

Councilwoman Francie Sullivan, who seconded Weaver’s motion to deny the appeal, said the council’s role is not to choose where people build their homes, businesses and churches “and we wouldn’t want to.” Instead, the council is charged with ensuring projects are located in appropriately zoned areas and that the resulting impacts are mitigated.

Besides, she said, it’s the large projects like Bethel Church and Costco that bring about large-scale improvements that benefit the entire city.

The project is located just north of Highway 299 at the northeast corner of Collyer and Twin View drives. Bethel plans two buildings, a church and the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, that will total 171,708 square feet. Some 1,851 parking spaces will be provided and 300 bike racks. Groundbreaking is expected in 2019 and completion by 2021.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

A new mayor

–Voted 5-0 to elect Kristen Schreder as mayor, replacing Brent Weaver. Francie Sullivan was elected vice mayor and Julie Winter was named mayor pro tempore. Barring any changes in the November 2018 general election, Sullivan will become mayor and Winter will ascend to the position of vice mayor.

Incoming Mayor Kristen Schreder with former Mayor Brent Weaver.

In accepting an honorary gavel recognizing his service as mayor, Weaver recounted his “awful” teen-aged years in Redding working in the summer heat at his father’s lumber yard and how that fueled a desire to never return to Redding.

After graduating Brigham Young University, moving to Berkeley and starting a family, Weaver said his attitude changed when his father offered to sell the family business. Weaver returned to Redding 14 years ago “and it’s been wonderful.” Serving as mayor has been an honor “and I’m looking forward to supporting Mayor Schreder in the next year and onward and upward.”

Gerard Open Space

–Voted 5-0 to purchase a small parcel of riverfront property from Lou and Diane Gerard for $1. The .87-acre parcel, which is adjacent to city-owned property at the intersection of Park Marina Drive and Parkview Avenue, has an appraised value of $200,000 but the Gerards believe the land should remain as open space and conserved for the community’s benefit, Community Services Director Kim Niemer said.

Location map indicating the Gerard Open Space.

Lou Gerard and his father traded the former downtown police station for the Parkview property years ago and established the Ford dealership that is now Crown Motors. Lou Gerard said it was his family’s belief that the “little tag of land” needed to be public property. “Thank you for accepting it,” Diane Gerard added.

Diane and Lou Gerard.

Public Comment

–Voted 5-0 to shift the public comment agenda section back to the start of city council meetings. Council members voted 4-1 in late 2014 to shift the public comment period to the end of meetings. Former Councilwoman Missy McArthur championed the change, saying the move would promote less rancorous meetings and allow the council to tackle city business more quickly.

That change prompted a barrage of protests, mostly from regulars in the audience who accused the council of shielding itself from criticism and suppressing the public’s right to free speech.

Councilman Weaver, who advocated reversing the change, said the level of discourse has improved in the last year or so and that “the right step” is to return the public comment section to the start of meetings. However, the change is on a six-month trial basis, but Weaver said if speakers can refrain from using the period as a bully pulpit, “I will be the first to move to make it permanent.”

Councilwoman Julie Winter said the 30-minute window of time, where speakers are limited to three minutes each, is not designed for two-way conversations and that can be frustrating. “If you want to be taken seriously, be respectful. Talk to us like you’d like us to talk to you.”

Impact Fees

–Voted unanimously to adopt a new set of development impact fees that will lower the cost of building a single-family home by $4,338.

The fees are charged to ensure new growth pays for the services and infrastructure it will require, including fire protection, streets, water, sewer and parks. The current impact fee total of $25,432 was established in 2013, Public Works Director Brian Crane said, and last year the council directed him to update the fee structure.

Brian Crane summarizes the impact fee changes.

Two consultants, NBS Consulting (water and wastewater fees) and Kittleson & Associates (traffic fee), were hired and a citizen advisory group was formed to help guide the process. Committee members included Fred Bergstrom, Gary Blanc, Janice Cunningham, Michele Goedert, Keith Hunting, Mary Machado, Rob Middleton and Jake Mangas.

After comparing past construction activity with projected infrastructure needs, the consultants and advisory group settled on a new impact fee structure that lowered fee totals to $21,094 for a single-family home.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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25 Responses

  1. Anita L Brady says:

    It was sad to watch last night. Bethel “Church” bribed the council last spring to the tune of 1/2 Million and they delivered the repayment last night.

    The legitimate concerns by residents were set aside because: Bethel people are so nice. They volunteer. They bring people with money to Redding. They “this” and they “that”. The commentary went on and on while the actual facts of traffic disasters in the making, water guzzling from a source that is not sufficient in years of drought (their EIR actually states that fact) and impact of more Bethel students on the local rental market were dismissed. Those affected negatively were panned while the Bethel folks were glorified. We are supposed to suck it up so development can happen. Yeah– nice that the few were thrown under the bus for the many Bethel members and those in the community that profit off them.

    Sort of a David vs Goliath with a trick ending.

  2. Randall Smith says:

    Like the hotly and negatively debated Sundial Bridge, Redding will come quickly to realize that expanding Bethel’s footprint in our village is a wonderful opportunity for everyone.

  3. It’s almost super natural, it is.

  4. Frank Treadway says:

    I say take the Bethel parking lot up, a sort of Tower of Babel, will save land for a more park setting, walk paths and less asphalt.

  5. Tim says:

    Great coverage again Jon!

    I’m optimistic the reduction in impact fees will help builders create more affordable homes in Redding. We actually work 20% fewer hours to buy each square foot of house today than we did in 1960, but homes have doubled in size (despite a decline in persons per household).

    High impact fees bear a lot of the blame because they have a large fixed cost that doesn’t change with home size, encouraging builders to go big. A $5,000 impact fee savings increases the profit margin on a 1000sqft home approximately 4%, helping to make smaller, less expensive homes a little more feasible for developers to build.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      The cost of the land is the biggest fixed cost, by far. If the developer subdivides a property and can build either 1,000 sq ft houses or 2,000 sq ft houses, the % profit per sq ft on the smaller house would have to be twice as high, or what’s his incentive to build the smaller houses? He nets the ~$4,000 decrease in impact fees either way.

      I once entertained buying a property in Palo Cedro that had seven lots. I had a vision for six ~1250 sq ft straw bale homes and a common building with a pool, bocce courts, all of that. Solar power, underground utilities, etc. Luckily, I decided not to go broke mistakenly thinking I was a developer.

      • Oh, man, Steve, I like your vision. I LOVE straw bale homes. What a great idea.

        • conservative says:

          I would like to see the state of California buy the 3,000 houses lost in the wine country fire and build affordable straw bale houses. Individual homeowners don’t have the expertise to get a good deal from insurance companies and contractors. Reportedly, some properties are only accessed by wooden bridges which need to be replaced by up to date metal.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          I envisioned marketing those houses almost exclusively to Bay Area retirees. My thinking was that a lot of those folks are sitting on houses in Silicon Valley that are selling for a couple of million dollars. I once visited a guy in Los Gatos who owned such a house—it was reminiscent of a Garden Tract house. Renovated to the nines, but small. That’s not uncommon in the Bay Area—many of those people are already used to smallish houses.

          A drive around Palo Cedro gives you a clear look at what modal Shasta County residents are looking for in a new country house: Huge stucco monstrosities.

      • Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

        Count me in Steve if you every do something like that.

      • Tim says:

        Steve,

        Redding’s average household makes $3,900/month so with $350/month in existing car & credit card payments and a 20% down payment, they can barely afford a ~$220,000 house at today’s 4.1% interest rates. Yet the cheapest new Redding house on Zillow is $360k…

        Across the country, you can find many new homes starting in the $190’s. Redding land is no more expensive & Redding construction costs are only ~10% more expensive (figure $10,000 extra on a 1,000 sqft home). California taxes on profit average ~7% higher, but that’s still only ~$4,000 on a $200,000 house assuming a generous 30% margin. So then we look at impact fees, and that’s where California really fails: $30,000-40,000 is typical (Redding is now going to be ~$20,000); Other states charge $0-$15,000.

        Let’s look at Anderson, where ~1600 sqft new homes are offered starting at $266k. Here is Anderson’s impact fee schedule for a single family home:
        Water: ~$2,500
        Sewer: ~$4,000
        Storm Drain: ~$500
        Parks fee: ~$2,000
        Police fee: ~$1,500
        Traffic fee: ~$5,000
        ——-
        $15,500

        Rough ballpark puts construction costs for those 1600 ft at $160,000. Impact fee: $15,500. Building permit: $2500? Land $30,000. Sales & Financing: $20,000. Income taxes: $4,000

        profit: $32k (~14%)

        Now let’s make that house 1,000 sqft with the same $32k profit. If you figure a marginal construction rate of $0.70/ft, lopping off 600ft of floor space should save $42,000. That would bring a $266,000 Anderson home down to $224,000 — almost affordable for the average Redding household (though it would be $229k with Redding’s extra $5k in impact fees).

        Of course, you’d still need to convince buyers that they really don’t need a walk-in master closet and space for king-size beds in every bedroom (unless they were willing to forgo the 2nd bathroom).

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Thanks for doing the math, Tim. My only quibble is that you didn’t figure in an economy-of-scale for the per-sq-ft building cost. But that’s a minor quibble.

          You nailed the psychology/marketing issues. If people have a choice between a 1600 sq ft house for $266k, or a 1000 sq ft house for $224k, most are going to take the 1600 sq ft house even if they can ill afford it. They’ll look at the additional $200 in the monthly payment and think, “We can swing that.” In fact, real estate people will sweet-talk younger people with: “Hey, it’ll be a stretch at first, but your income is gonna go up, and that payment will always be the same.” That’s sometimes true, but here in Shasta County, it’s just as true that sooner or later you’re going to have to weather a job loss or economic downturn that hits harder here than most places.

          I assume developers understand that “go big” psychology. I look at McMansions on postage stamp-sized lots and wonder, “Why would anyone want to live like that?” But big new homes on small lots sell.

      • Common Sense says:

        Hahah….Straw bale…..you are a rebel aren’t you! There are only 4 of those in Shasta County….and according to two of the owners….it was like Pulling Teeth to get the County to approve them!
        The most Magnificient one is on the Westside just past the end of the Country Heights Subdivision….it’s amazing…..
        There is another one in Happy Valley…..yes….Happy Valley and two others of which I have not been through. Perhaps 1 more since I toured the largest one.

        I like the Strawbale/Shipping container homes myself….but don’t have the fortitude to fight with the county for 3 years to get one approved!

  6. conservative says:

    I believe a remodeling project like Doni’s does not have to pay impact fees. Redding has a lot of obsolete houses which should be torn down and rebuilt. There is no way a house with 2×4 construction can be as energy efficient as 2×6 construction used today. New windows, doors, insulating materials are a big improvement.

    Here in Nevada, there is a lot of new construction and I like to inspect the work when I’m walking the dog.

  7. smokey bear says:

    “I had a vision for six ~1250 sq ft straw bale homes”

    In fireprone California why not make them styrofoam ? Dumb just plain dumb

  8. Gary Tull says:

    Interesting! I did not know that stacked straw bales, 8 ft high can directly support up to 25 ft. (in length) of a conventional roof structure. I would think you would want to make sure every bale is tightly bound with high-quality non-stretching wire. A given, I suppose. Anyhow, I like the idea.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Yep, the tight bales exclude the necessary O2 needed for combustion. The plaster provides additional fire-proofing. Years ago I visited a local big-wig’s sweet straw bale house a couple of times, located on the outskirts of fire-prone west Redding. He’s certainly more fire-safe than any of his neighbors with wood siding.

      One nice thing about those thick straw bale walls is that they provide nice alcoves in the windows. If the bales are thick enough you can turn them into seating alcoves with a few pillows. Unfortunately for the guy I mentioned above, while he was out of town the contractor installed the windows flush with the interior walls, so the alcoves were on the outside. Doh!

      • Gary Tull says:

        I think we toured the west Redding place. I was impressed by how cool and quiet it was inside. Yea, I remember about the windows too. Alcoves and garden windows would have been nice.

  9. conservative says:

    Youtube has many videos of straw bale construction.

  10. Virginia says:

    May God help us on the Bethel property on Collyer! Only He can, as the City Council doesn’t!

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