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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