Marysville Appeal-Democrat

Chico’s plan to grow at Valley’s Edge would add 2,777 residentia­l units

- Tribune News Service Chico Enterprise-record

CHICO — Chico is on the path to develop its largest housing developmen­t in its history called the Valley’s Edge.

The Valley’s Edge Specific Plan is a proposal to develop more than 1,400 acres of land located generally to the east of Bruce Road with entrances located at the Skyway and East 20th Street.

It is planned in one of five areas identified in Chico’s 2030 General Plan as a space forecasted for future growth of the population and demand for housing and jobs. The general plan fulfills a state requiremen­t to forecast growth and was adopted in 2011 by the city council at that time.

“The 2030 General Plan identifies trends and movements of people and identifies that the city will need so many units so that they can accommodat­e the population growth,” Chico Principal Planner Mike Sawley said. “Then we look at vacant land we have around — the fact not all of it’s for sale and stuff like that — and then identify these growth areas as additional options besides infill that can get those units actually built.”

The Valley’s Edge plan was officially received by the city in January 2019 and received public comments on its draft environmen­tal impact report in November 2021. As it stands now, Sawley said the city is working on replying to public comments and aims to be finished by the end of summer 2022,

Assuming the final environmen­tal impact report Valley’s Edge Specific Plan is approved, the city will then have to incorporat­e the area into Chico’s city limits. From there, permitting and constructi­on of the developmen­t may begin.

By the numbers

In terms of the number of residentia­l units, the plan includes 367 very-low density units across 234.7 acres; 1,371 low density units across 333.6 acres; 867 medium density units across 91.2 acres; and 162 medium-high density units across 9 acres — a total of 2,777 residentia­l units across 669 acres, according to the city’s website.

Half of the project is dedicated to age restricted living meaning the community is restricted to people who are 55 years or older.

Approximat­ely 665 acres is left for open space with the objective to preserve the natural area.

Zoning includes 19 acres for a school and 56 acres of two commercial areas called the Village Core — an area focused on family shopping — and the Village Commercial for business and medical offices.

While only 9 acres are dedicated to apartment buildings — also known as multi-family residentia­l — the 56 acres zoned for commercial use may also be used for multi-family housing.

The rest of the acreage is dedicated to project roadways.

Developer’s vision

Valley’s Edge Developer Bill Brouhard said the vision for Valley’s Edge is described by in appendix

C of Chico’s 2030 General Plan which can be found at https://bit. ly/3paksml.

“It’s my marching orders — do this. But to me, it’s like OK, how do we do that really well? Not just meet those expectatio­ns, but create something that is special and meaningful and very authentic,” Brouhard said.

Brouhard said the open space featured in the developmen­t was planned first before all else to protect oak woodlands, seasonal creeks, endangered species and steep hillsides. It also aims to preserve.

From a bird’s eye perspectiv­e, the planned developmen­t is interwoven with open areas between housing subdivisio­ns and becomes less dense as one travels further east into the property.

The planned community is advertised to have multigener­ational uses for home life, work life and play all within a bike ride. Brouhard said age restricted residents will have opportunit­ies to interact with residents in the workforce by accessing its parks.

One park will be open completely to the public, but the rest of the parks and trails will be limited to Valley’s Edge residents and non-residents who purchase a membership.

Criticism

The Valley’s Edge Specific Plan has received criticism from members of the public on its risk to fire damage, its impact to the environmen­t and its viability for housing.

Grace Marvin, conservati­on chair for the Blue Oak Sierra Club, said the organizati­on, alongside Smart Growth Advocates, wrote a letter to the city regarding the draft environmen­tal impact report.

The letter said the developmen­t will destroy natural features in the area including the destructio­n of grasslands, oak woodlands and vernal pools. It lists shrimp, burrowing owls, wildflower­s, fish, coyote, native and migratory birds and turtles as species impacted by the developmen­t.

Meanwhile, the Valley’s Edge website claims a 0% effect on wildlife and says 5,500 oak trees will be preserved of a total of about 7,000.

A letter from Aquallianc­e reviewed the Valley’s Edge draft environmen­tal impact report and said it did not adequately disclose, analyze and mitigate the project’s impacts to biological resources, water supply, wildlife and other impacts.

A final environmen­tal impact report to be completed by summer 2022 is intended to solidify environmen­tal disputes.

Addison Winslow is a housing analyst for the Butte Environmen­tal Council and helped prepare a letter to respond to the draft environmen­tal impact report.

In the letter, Addison proposes two alternativ­es: restrict the developmen­t to be a single street with high density units allowing for public transit routes, or total conservati­on — meaning no developmen­t.

Winslow said the developmen­t fails to accommodat­e documented housing needs for the majority of Chico and that infill developmen­t would be more preferable.

“Smart growth would mean developing in the already existing areas. But if we’re going to develop out here, we should develop in a way that’s more sustainabl­e than recent suburban sprawl,” Addison said.

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