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Redding Reaffirms Opposition to Casino Expansion Plans; Council Agenda Includes Energy Projects, Body Worn Cameras and Parking

A divided Redding City Council voted Tuesday to repeat its opposition to Win-River Casino’s proposed expansion and relocation to land fronting Interstate 5 just south of the South Bonnyview Road interchange.

The move, following a 3-2 vote, reaffirms the objections Redding first presented in 2019. A letter authorized Tuesday challenges sections of the project’s final environmental impact statement. Specifically, it says the report failed to adequately address traffic, economic and aesthetic impacts, as well as potential issues involving the extension of city water and electrical service to the casino and hotel.

Proposed Win-River Casino and Hotel

The Redding Rancheria is hoping for federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approval for its plan to build a 69,541-square-foot casino and nine-story, 250-room hotel on undeveloped land it owns just west of I-5. The project includes restaurants, a conference center and two large entertainment venues.

Redding’s opposition is being countered by a vote of support from the Shasta County Board of Supervisors. The board also voted last year to approve a 30-year contract to provide law enforcement and fire service for the casino project. That deal, in turn, prompted a lawsuit from a group representing Shasta County taxpayers that seeks to nix the arrangement.

“Many people believe the county gave away the store,” said Steve Williams, one of four people who spoke during the comment section. Williams said the project’s environmental impact statement relied on 5-year-old “stale” information and fails to address potential impacts on cultural resources on the riverfront property that has been known as the Strawberry Fields.

Tom Reents with the Churn Creek Bottom Homeowners and Friends said he opposed seeing more development on farmland. “If we allow this to keep going, we’re going to end up looking like Sacramento,” he said.

Michael Dacquisto

Councilman Michael Dacquisto, who joined Councilman Mark Mezzano in voting against sending the letter, said the issue was essentially a “food fight” between the city and the rancheria and noted the ultimate decision is up to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Public comments on the environmental impact statement will be accepted through April 29. The Bureau could make a decision any time after that. If the Bureau opts to place the 232-acre Strawberry Fields site into a trust, the land would become exempt from local taxes and land-use regulations.

Fountain Wind project

In another divided vote, the council agreed to send a letter to the California Energy Commission that supports Shasta County’s opposition to a Texas-based firm’s plans to erect up to 48 wind turbines on forested land near Montgomery Creek and Round Mountain.

The county voted down the project in 2021, but a new state law, AB 205, grants the California Energy Commission authority to overrule local governments and approve projects like Fountain Wind.

The turbines, to be located about 35 miles east of Redding, have the capacity to generate 200 megawatts of electricity—enough to power about 80,000 homes, according to the applicant ConnectGen.

Opponents argue the wind generators would hinder firefighting efforts in an extremely fire-prone area and disturb burial sites sacred to the Pit River Tribe of Native Americans. Proponents note the project would create 200 union jobs, provide $50 million in property tax revenue and $3.5 million in sales tax revenue.

Ray Thomas, a retired Redding Electric Utility employee, said the project enjoys broad support from organized labor and is an example of renewable energy that the city relies upon heavily. Eihnard Diaz, who represents ConnectGen, encouraged the council to not join in the county’s “ill-conceived” battle.

Mark Mezzano

Council members Mezzano and Dacquisto agreed and provided the two opposing votes. “This is not a fight we need to get into,” Dacquisto said. Mezzano said it was inappropriate to “jump on the coattails of the county.”

Body Worn Cameras

Redding Police Chief Brian Barner provided a six-month progress report on the body worn cameras his officers started using on Aug. 15, 2023. From mid-August through April 3, 2024, officers recorded 95,816 videos. Of those, 2,400 were viewed by the District Attorney’s Office and/or used in a courtroom. Barner said there have been eight citizen requests for video footage in that period.

Redding Police Chief Brian Barner

Barner called the program “extremely successful.” The chief said the 12 formal citizen complaints received were able to be quickly resolved, thanks to having the aid of a video record as part of the investigation.

Use of the cameras has been widely accepted by officers, he said. “The staff has been great. They feel like it protects them,” Barner said.

To illustrate, Barner screened an excerpt of a video recorded during a traffic stop that had resulted in a citizen complaint by the motorist, a self-described homeless advocate who alleged the officer, Alex Dahnke, “acted like a Nazi.” The video showed the officer acting with calm and courteous professionalism.

“It’s nice to be able to go back and look at what happened,” Barner said. “I knew we had professional staff.” Said Mezzano, a 30-year California Highway Patrol veteran: “Your officer did an exceptional job.”

The council awarded a $1.25 million contract to Axon in June 2023 for the purchase of 122 cameras and cloud-based storage.

Courthouse Parking

Downtown parking changes

Already tight downtown parking conditions got squeezed even tighter when the new courthouse opened, according to Public Works Director Michael Webb, but some relief should arrive by midsummer.

On Tuesday night, the council voted 5-0 to approve Webb’s plan to switch 50 Oregon Street paid parking stalls from two- to four-hour limits. Webb said that should provide jurors enough time to get through morning and afternoon sessions without receiving parking tickets.

Melissa Bradley-Fowler, the Shasta County Superior Court executive officer, told the council she is negotiating with Shasta County to acquire a lot on the east side of Oregon Street that will provide 220 spaces for courthouse employee and juror parking. That deal is expected to be completed in July.

Webb said there are currently 5,174 downtown parking spaces with 815 metered street spaces and 451 metered spaces in parking lots. An additional 459 spaces are available in two privately operated garages.

 

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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