Chico voters rejecting planned community Valley’s Edge Environmental costs and traffic influenced voters

by Natalie Hanson
posted March 7

Editor’s note: The Butte County Clerk-Recorder’s office released official election results on March 28 that show that almost 63% voted NO on Measure O and 62% opposed Measure P.

photo by Leslie Layton
The Valley’s Edge houses would be built on lava cap.

Preliminary results in the primary election show Chico voters rejecting the controversial Valley’s Edge project that would produce a planned community east of City limits.

As of March 8, the preliminary count showed the number of “NO” votes on measures O and P at 62% of some 19,000 ballots that had been counted. Those measures would amend the General Plan and the Valley’s Edge Specific Plan to allow the development.

The project on 1,448 acres between Stilson Canyon Road and Honey Run Road has generated considerable pushback for years. Opponents have questioned whether it will create enough homes for people who earn Chico wages and whether it will cause irreparable ecological damage.

The project — approved by the City Council in a 5-1 vote in January 2023 — has been under negotiation between the developer and the City for more than a decade. It would plant almost 5,600 people in southeast Chico where the valley floor transitions into the foothills over a build-out period that could last up to 40 years. Valley’s Edge developers promised that the project would include preserves and parks and what has been called an “actively managed wildland interface.” An expensive campaign to win voter favor was conducted that included glossy mailers and TV ads.

photo by Karen Laslo
Eric Nilsson participated in a panel discussion last month.

Chico resident Eric Nilsson, who worked on the Stop Valley’s Edge campaign with the group Smart Growth Advocates, said that volunteers who canvassed met voters who were clear about their misgivings.

“It would negatively impact our ability to meet our Climate Action Plan goals,” Nilsson said. “It also has to do with preservation of habitat for threatened species … and we were also concerned with runoff into Butte Creek [that hosts] one of the last salmon runs.”

Other residents were concerned about building outside City limits when Chico’s public infrastructure is already buckling, Nilsson added. He said the land was attractive to developers because it could be annexed into the City and the project could use its infrastructure, but that would put more pressure on City services.

“What we found out is that what Chicoans don’t want is sprawl development that’s going to put more pressure on the infrastructure of the City,” he said. “People began to realize the amount of spending, that this was a development for a small minority of people, mostly buyers outside of Chico who could afford the expensive homes.”

The fate of the land may soon be in question. As of Thursday, representatives for Valley’s Edge, including real estate broker Bill Brouhard of Guillon-Brouhard Commercial Real Estate, had not responded to a request for comment.

But some Valley’s Edge opponents want to take action on demand for more housing. Nilsson said some Chicoans want to meet with developers to look at about 15 existing “opportunity zones” for infill housing. Incentives to help developers build within City limits will be key, he said.

“In this case, democracy really worked,” Nilsson said. “This sends a message to the City Council [that] rubber-stamped a project without really considering what they were doing.”

Natalie Hanson is a contributing editor to ChicoSol.

3 thoughts on “Chico voters rejecting planned community Valley’s Edge Environmental costs and traffic influenced voters

  1. Good news. Chico is trying to become a behemoth of a city, and long with that will come all the negatives. Chico, just stay the nice little town you once were… Continued growth will only destroy the natural beauty and charm that is once had and turn it into just another crime and filth ridden community…

  2. I applaud Chico voters for their knowledge based, thoughtful input regarding the question of how Chico should grow. I am now calling myself an yimby (yes in my back yard ). There are so many possibilities for well designed infill (just look to the Doe Mill neighborhood). And, I am glad to hear that the No on O & P folks are ready for the next phase of smart growth. We need to continue to support them.

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