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City Council adopts river-centric development plan
The purpose of the plan is to provide the framework for future policies and regulations that will attract and guide new investment for a vibrant, active and economically healthy downtown, according to Interim City Manager Randy Dunn.
The Colusa City Council adopted a development plan on Tuesday for a river-centric downtown.
"This is the most comprehensive study we've had. It fits the character of Colusa and it fits what our downtown is now," said Councilman Greg Ponciano.
The outreach section of the plan suggests the city focus on riverfront development and leverage regional assets, such as the Sutter Buttes, agriculture and waterfowl, bird and wildlife by hosting celebrations and city functions focusing on those values.
The plan also suggests recruiting businesses that capitalize on those assets, such as a hotel that caters to bird-watchers or a brewery that makes beer from rice.
City Planner Bryan Stice said he values the creative thinking and says the idea of celebrating local assets can benefit the city, business owners and the public.
The plan is a guiding document with no regulations or enforceable code, it can act like a road map for the city in recruiting and directing new business toward a larger vision for downtown.
"We've never really had a guideline of what our vision was. ... We have something to go from now," said Ponciano.
The plan divides the downtown - essentially defined as Market and Main streets from Bridge Street to Highway 45 - into smaller subdistricts such as "Riverfront District" and "Downtown Core" and offers suggestions for land use and development strategies in those areas.
The goal is to design a downtown that can "support the community's vision for a walkable, pedestrian-friendly district that attracts residents and visitors as part of their daily lives."
Some downtown business owners said they don't expect much to happen with the plan.
"They do it every 10 years and nothing ever gets done," said Gretchen Howe, owner of Richie's Florist. Councilman Kirk Kelleher, who owns Kelleher Paint downtown, has seen plans go to waste as well.
"I've seen a lot of wasted money on dusty studies sitting on shelves," said Kelleher. "Politicians get sucked into spending money thinking its free because it comes from government grants. But it's not free, it's the people's money."
He said it's the private sector and investors that will drive development.
"Ultimately it's going to be private investors who will make (development) happen, it's completely unpredictable," said Kelleher.
Ian Ross, the principal the City Design Collective, said that it is up to the city to make sure the investment is strategic.
"Colusa is likely to attract some new investment. But the truth is it's going to be hard to come by and there is going to be limited amount."
Ross said that means that Colusa needs to be strategic about where the businesses are going and direct development toward the city's vision.
The Oakland-based consulting firm was paid $35,000 from a planning grant to develop land-use designs and economic strategies for the downtown area. The process leading up to the planning document included workshops with the public to understand what the city residents need.
"The most critical component is engaging the public. We try to find the ones (consultants) that 'get it,'" said Stice.
He said the consultants the city chose were successful.
"They took that information (provided by the public) and blended it with what they know as revitalization principles."