A circus atmosphere, complete with sideshow barkers collecting recall petitions, angry Millville Plains residents airing grievances, and honking motorists on Court Street showing support for striking county workers greeted attendees gathering Tuesday for the third evening meeting of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors.
Inside the board chambers, seats quickly filled to near capacity well before the meeting’s 5:30 p.m. start as diverse factions scooped up agenda packets and filled out public comment cards for a chance to speak for up to three minutes on their chosen topic or concern.
Other than a large contingent of orange-shirted striking county workers, there were quite a few vocal residents of the Millville area residents prepared to protest a proposed 150+ acre shooting range planned by Board chair Patrick Henry Jones, who owns the property currently zoned for limited residential use with a 40-acre minimum lot size.
After calling the meeting to order a few minutes early, Jones and the five-member board received a 34-page annual report and 20-minute presentation on Shasta County Fire Department operations during 2022 from Fire Warden Sean O’Hara.
An unrelated and shorter presentation followed on the manufacturing and zoning of Moveable Tiny Homes led by Daniel R. Fitzpatrick, president of the Tiny Home Industry Association, and accompanied by Arlin Mendoza, co-owner with Dominic Velazquez of Liberty Cabins and doing business in Cottonwood as Forever Tiny Homes.
The latter presentation foreshadows a longer presentation scheduled for the board’s May 30 meeting during which the county’s Resource Management Department will speak to existing ordinances that currently restrict moveable housing to Recreation Vehicle (RV) parks and prohibit them, except for emergency and temporary use, on residentially-zoned properties, stated Mary Williams, acting as the county’s interim Chief Executive Officer and interim Clerk of the Board of Supervisors.
Proposed shooting range postponed
Supervisor Jones, who represents District 4 north of Redding, then turned the gavel over to District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman, vice-chair, while Jones recused himself, left the dais, and exited the board chambers while the board considered rezoning nearly 152 acres Jones owns in the unincorporated Millville Plains area just east of Redding.
For more than 13 years, Jones has dreamed of operating an outdoor shooting range and/or hunting club on the property. In support of his proposal, he submitted plans, studies, and reports to the Shasta County Planning Commission and various other departments asking for rezoning of his property to Commercial Recreation use.
Before opening up the floor to comments on either side of the issue, Garman announced, “We have received a request from staff to continue this (public hearing) to a date uncertain. I will therefore entertain a motion to do just that.”
District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert, who represents a portion of that area, quickly made a motion to postpone the hearing. District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom, whose district also includes a portion of the Millville area, seconded the motion.
Garman then opened the motion to general discussion by board members which led to a loud protest from dozens of Millville residents anxious to weigh in on the subject matter, which they proceeded to do for the next two hours.
As a growing parade of commenters began to line up for a chance at the microphone, County Council James Ross suggested, “Comments against the property zoning should be held until the appropriate public hearing is scheduled. This comment period is for the motion that is before the board.”
However, Ross’s comments were drowned out by loud cries of protest from what seemed to be a majority of those currently in the audience.
At that point, Garman asked the audience if they wanted their comments to be heard anyway, and the response was a resounding yes punctuated with applause, cheers, and catcalls.
“This (proposal) should be tossed. There is very little in this (report) that is current,” stated Dennis Patterson, who has lived adjacent to the property in question for more than 23 years.
“The reason my wife Mary and I moved up here from Sonoma County so many years ago is for the quiet and solitude,” he added.
“Postponing this matter will just give us more time to collect signatures against it,” Patterson said, noting further, “We have collected 1,300 signatures against this so far.”
Frank Banuelos, a Vietnam Veteran, followed Patterson to the podium.
“This (proposal) is plainly terrible, especially when our fire danger out there is so very high. Every year I plow in fire breaks on my property to prevent the spread of wildfires. In case of a fire, if this property has 500 cars or RVs all trying to evacuate a wildfire through the property’s single exit, they will all burn up,” Banuelos said.
Next up was Judy Hoffman, a 25-year resident of Millville Plains, whose property abuts Jones’s property on the southeast corner, directly in the line of fire for one of the proposed 1,000-foot long-rifle ranges.
“When we moved in there 25 years ago, this was all ranch land along Bear Creek with 24/7 access to water. We raise cattle and show Boer goats. There is a nice quiet place along Bear Creek where you can see Indian petroglyphs carved into the rock. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The peace and quiet there is remarkable. It has a sacred ambiance,” noted Hoffman, who dreads the constant barrage of gunfire a shooting range nearby would bring, not to mention her concerns for her family and livestock within range of that gunfire.
“There are at least seven endangered animals that live out here. This (gun range) will also negatively affect our property values. No one wants to live next to a gun range,” she concluded.
Among the nearly 40 people who spoke against the project, several pointed out that Patrick Jones previously opposed a residential development near another existing outdoor gun range (there are several in Shasta County) because it would be incompatible.
“Now he wants to build a gun range in the middle of a residential area,” said Redding Realtor Brad Garbutt, who was representing an out-of-state property owner who only received notice of the rezoning on May 10, but when the land owner attempted to find out more about the project, could not find any documentation on the county’s web site until it was finally posted May 15.
“Needless to say, neither my client or I could file anything in opposition before the filing deadline on May 15,” Garbutt noted.
Others noted the studies done 6, 7, and 10 years ago on endangered species of plants and animals to support the project’s negative declaration of insignificant environmental impact were many years out of date and no longer valid.
By 7:30 p.m., Garman closed the public comment time and returned the board’s attention to the motion at hand; to postpone a public hearing on the matter to a later date uncertain.
The motion passed 4-0 and Patrick Jones returned to the dais at 7:35 p.m. to resume chairing the remainder of the meeting.
CEO/Clerk of Board hired
At 10:20 p.m., supervisors finally got around to unanimously approving a three-year employment contract and appointing David J. Rickert, 56, of Elgin, Illinois, as the County Executive Officer/Clerk of the Board of Supervisors.
Besides sharing the same last name, CEO Rickert and Supervisor Rickert are not related.
CEO Rickert will begin his official duties May 30, unless a later date is negotiated and agreed upon, the contract states.
Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights and Measures reappointed to a four-year term
Just prior to taking the aforementioned action, supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution reappointing Rick Gurrola as Shasta County’s Agricultural Commissioner and Sealer of Weights and Measures for another four-year term.
Gurrola leads a county department whose mission is to promote and protect the county’s agricultural industry while maintaining the health and beauty of the county’s environment while ensuring the health and safety of the county’s citizens, according to the department’s website.
Part of the department’s responsibilities involves calibrating and inspecting all gas and diesel fuel pumps at gas stations throughout Shasta County.
County workers end strike; supervisors agree in closed session to come back with a new proposal
Shasta County employees, many of whom spent 15 days on picket lines striking for higher take-home pay and lower insurance contribution requirements, waited until nearly 10:40 p.m. for supervisors to begin a closed session conference with its labor negotiating team.
Prior to the closed session, union representative Steve Allen advised board members the strike was ending and the period of impasse was passed.
“It’s basically a time to start over, repair divisions, and consider treating their employees better,” one United Public Employees of California, Local 792, union member told ANC anonymously.
“We have submitted a proposal to the board asking for a 3 percent pay increase and lower deductions for health insurance premiums, including a 100 percent county-paid health plan for employees with a 95 percent county-paid plan for one additional family member and a 90 percent county-paid plan for an entire family,” the union member said.
Allen told A News Cafe following the closed session that supervisors announced they would be preparing a new wage and benefits proposal for county employees.
“They reported out of closed session that on a 4-1 vote they are going to send us a new offer. We will see,” Allen said.