Colusa housing project pushed off tract
The Colusa Planning Commission just wasn’t sure about the 270-home Riverbend Estates.
Two members – chairman Mickey Settlemire and Jim White – thought the planned development was basically a good project.
But three members – Richard Selover, Ken Flagor Jr. and Mike Herrick – had too many questions to recommend that the City Council give its stamp of approval.
That 3-2 majority sent a recommendation Wednesday night that a full environmental impact review be conducted.
“I think there are a few of us who believe there are significant impacts on things that staff had determined to be no significant impact,” Herrick said.
But even that did not have the full commitment of the majority – certainly not to the level of commitment expressed by the opponents who voiced their concerns and general objections to a project that would be located east of the main body of town.
Market Street would be extended across Bridge Street and curve back south to East Clay Street, as the course of the Sacramento River bordered the back of the proposed subdivision.
Selover struggled to find a middle ground between recommending the mitigated negative declaration as presented to the Commission – meaning all potential impacts were viewed as not being significant, or had been mitigated to that status by the developers – and requiring the full environmental review.
But there was no happy middle ground as the meeting crawled to the end of four hours in the City Council chambers of City Hall.
Herrick was particularly concerned, despite assurances from the developers and the planning staff, that the mitigation measures would follow the build out.
He believed all mitigations for the entire project should be completed up front, rather than when the phased build-out schedule triggers additional mitigations.
“I think we are putting the cart before the horse. ... I think it needs better planning, whether it is a tentative map or not,” Herrick said.
Attorney David Nelson, representing a neighboring interest, described the phasing approach as “kicking the can down the road.”
Mike Olivas, part of the Riverbend development team, said doing all the infrastructure up front is unrealistic in the economic market that exists, but said the plan expressly requires all required mitigations from each phase will be completed before that new construction begins.
He said if that meant having to do all the mitigations up front, which would be unlikely, than that is what the developers would be required to do.
The closest compromise was offered by Settlemire, who was willing to recommend the mitigated negative declaration if the amended drainage system was reviewed by the appropriate engineer and supported.
That was a sticking point.
The public hearing, which had been continued from November, was delayed for two months so the developers could address the drainage and river seepage issues that were on the top of the neighbors’ list of objections.
That list also included traffic, noise, impacts on existing agricultural practices and a unobstructed desire to keep their generally quiet, rural setting just as it is.
“I don’t want this here,” said Mike Ortiz. “I don’t want you to concrete all around my house. That is not why I am (living) here.”
The developers came back with a different plan to use a modified pond and piping system that would clear away drainage and seepage from the project area.
But it was reported that the city engineer did not feel qualified to review the hydrology and other technical issues. That left the commission without a clear approval from the planning staff – at least on that issue.
Otherwise, City Planner Bryan Stice had recommended the project as presented.
Settlemire moved that the mitigated negative declaration be approved, if the City Council receives support from an outside engineer verifying the developers drainage plan as sound.
“I’m trying to get away from the council ordering (a full) environmental impact report. I don’t think we need another environmental impact report just to (review) the drainage,” Settlemire said.
But the chairman’s motion was voted down.
In the end, the commission found itself in a position that it could only reject the mitigated negative declaration and recommend the full environmental review.
Flagor’s motion included the concerns about the drainage, but also possible impacts on schools and listed the public’s input as a reason that had been considered.
In what became procedural matters, the Commission voted 3-2, with Flagor and Herrick in dissent, to approve the zoning change to a planned development designation if the council found a full EIR wasn’t needed.
The Commission also voted 4-1, with Herrick in dissent, to approve the vesting tentative map, with the added condition of no houses being built within 150 feet of the levee, and again only if the council found a full EIR wasn’t necessary.
That extra condition, which had the concensus of the developers, would eliminate about seven lots.
The 84.7-acre project consists of about 270 single-family residential lots and 105 multi-residential residences. The lot sizes ranged from 5,000 to 6,000 square feet.
It included nearly 13 acres of parkland, including a levee parkway and park system, and about 9 acres of open space. Combined it was twice the acreage required for the zoning.