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City Proposes New Options For Bidwell Ranch

Discussion of a large, undeveloped property on the east edge of Chico may be headed from contentious to consensus.

The 756-acre Bidwell Ranch is among the issues up for consideration by the Chico City Council Tuesday evening with city administrators offering a recommendation that may prove palatable across the local ideological divide.

Local activists blocked a planned subdivision at the site, adjacent to Upper Bidwell Park, more than a decade ago. The property has essentially been in city-owned limbo since, with no economic activity and very limited public access.

The property is home to several endangered species, including a small plant called Butte County Meadowfoam, and a tiny freshwater crustacean called fairy shrimp.

Officials and some activists hoped to put the property to work in a novel, revenue-producing way. As a “mitigation bank,” undeveloped habitat within the parcel would incrementally gain codified protection as sensitive habitat elsewhere in the region is lost to development. The concept and the execution of it proved too convoluted and time consuming to execute.

The proposal before the council calls for the city to jointly use with the county as a mitigation bank. It is believed that the county would pay between $3 million and $6 million for the privilege.

The other option calls for the city to maintain control and open most areas to the public. Critical endangered species habitat, including seasonal ponds, dubbed vernal pools in documents, would remain off limits. 

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