New housing starts have been hard to come by across the state since the economic downturn, but Sutter County could see one of its townships grow substantially in the near future if officials decide to move forward with a proposed subdivision.
A proposal for a new subdivision that could include up to 84 homes over an area of about 78 acres on the outskirts of the town of Sutter was recently submitted to the county by Helm Properties, a local commercial and residential real estate company.
“The property has been zoned residential since the mid-1980s,” said Jeff Helm, the company’s owner. “Our submittal is consistent with the general plan and zoning. The average lot size ranges from of an acre to 1 acre. We’re working closely with county staff to ensure a well-thought-out project, which will benefit the community and school district.”
The project is proposed for the east side of town and would stretch from McKee Lane down to Sutter Avenue, between Oak Street and Mallott Road. The initial plans call for four villages, ranging from 15-28 lots each. Its development would likely be carried out in phases.
Officials in the Sutter County Development Services Department are currently reviewing the proposal, but some locals have expressed concerns over how the project might impact the small farming community.
Steve Baroni, an Oak Street resident, said one of the greatest aspects of Sutter is that it’s a small town and increasing it by 84 homes could jeopardize that. The new subdivision would butt up to his backyard – an area that is currently an orchard.
“Why would I want to increase traffic in my small town by 100 to 200 more cars, take away our ag land, increase the limited capacity of our schools, take away the small-town aspect, which we currently cherish. The only benefit is what? More homes,” Baroni said. “In addition, I live on Oak Street and you’re asking me to give up the peace and quite and the beautiful view of the orchard for what, someone else’s backyard.”
Sutter County Supervisor Mike Ziegenmeyer, whose jurisdiction includes the town of Sutter, shared the project details with his followers on Facebook last month, which was largely met with concerns. Some of the issues raised included whether the town had the utility capabilities to handle another 84 homes; if its roads and infrastructure could handle a significant increase in vehicles; how it might impact the town’s fire department and sheriff department resources; and if the local schools could handle the additional students.
“I think it’s very important to listen to the public and to hear from all sides on this, especially when it comes to new developments,” Ziegenmeyer said. “There’s a lot of questions to be asked. This is just the review process, so there is a long road ahead, but for me, I’m going to work for my constituents. I grew up in Sutter. People here love that small-town atmosphere.”
Neal Hay, director of Development Services for the county, said his department has only begun to assess the application and start the review process.
As part of the planning application process, staff will review the project for consistency with applicable zoning, subdivision and other county standards. After that, they will circulate the application for review to applicable county departments, outside agencies and applicable Native American tribes for review and comment, before preparing an environmental document consistent with the California Environmental Quality Act.
Once that environmental document is prepared, the county will open up a 20- or 30-day public comment period for the public to review and comment on the project.
Following public comment, a public hearing will be scheduled before the Planning Commission, after which they can approve, conditionally approve or deny the application. The Board of Supervisors have the ability to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision.
“Within a few months, the department will provide an opportunity for public comments and we will make you aware of the meeting time and place,” Hay said. “By then we will have more accurate information that can be distributed.”