Joey Ortez, owner of Palo Cedro Printing,  calls on a member of the audience during the community meeting she called for Oct. 25, 2014 to organize opposition to big box stores attempting to locate in Palo Cedro.
Joey Ortez, owner of Palo Cedro Printing, calls on a member of the audience during the community meeting she called for Oct. 25, 2014 to organize opposition to big box stores attempting to locate in Palo Cedro.

By Sharyn Cornelius

Between 50 and 60 residents of Palo Cedro and the surrounding areas attended a meeting called by Palo Cedro Printing owner Joey Ortez on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014 to discuss what to do about the two big box stores that are trying to move into the rural town center. Rite Aid has bought out Palo Cedro’s two local pharmacies and moved into the Foothill Pharmacy building in the Village Shopping Center where they plan to build a 17,300 square foot store at the south end. Dollar General is in the process of submitting an application to build a store on property at the southwest corner of Old Forty-four Drive and Deschutes Roads that is already zoned for commercial retail.

Ortez began by urging all those present to contact Rite Aid and Dollar General corporate management to let them know how local residents feel about their moving into Palo Cedro. She said she hoped to be able to recruit folks at the meeting to help her write a design review for Palo Cedro that would contain building size and height specifications to keep big box stores from locating here in the future. She said that because the town of Cottonwood had a design review ordinance in place, Dollar General had withdrawn its application to locate in the downtown area. Eighteen people signed up to work on the design review committee, and Ortez agreed to send email notices of all the committee meetings and minutes to anyone who gave her an email address.

Several residents said they felt that a design review was an okay place to start, but that the only real protection against unwelcome development in Palo Cedro would come from its incorporation as a city. Others said they thought Palo Cedro had too few people and too limited a tax base to be able to provide municipal services such as public works, sewer, law enforcement, etc.

Some attendees were distressed to learn that Rite Aid’s building plans for the shopping center would require tearing down the windmill which has become a popular local landmark over the years. They asked if it would be possible to seek protection for the windmill as a historical landmark, but local historian Dottie Smith said the building wasn’t old enough to qualify for historical protection, though it might be protected just as a landmark.

Others were concerned that Dollar General’s building plans might include cutting down all the large oak trees on the corner lot. The former owner of a local nursery said that Shasta County currently had no tree ordinance capable of protecting them.

Design review committee holds first meeting

The design review committee held its first meeting on Nov. 1, with 14 people in attendance, including the manager of Palo Cedro’s Holiday Market, who said the store’s owners were behind the effort 100 percent. Ortez had good news for the participants: She had contacted the Planning Division and learned that Dollar General had only submitted preliminary plans for the Palo Cedro site and wasn’t yet close to being issued a building permit and Rite Aid’s use permit application had been returned because it was incomplete. This will give residents more time to organize their opposition to the projects.

Ortez said the first step in the design review process was to select a name for the committee and decide on meeting dates. Those present agreed by consensus to call themselves the Palo Cedro Civic Association. One member said he would set up a website for the committee and Ortez agreed to host it on her server. The Association is planning to meet two Saturdays per month.

The next step will be to survey the community. Ortez said she will revise the survey created by the group that attempted to create a comprehensive plan for Palo Cedro in the 1990s and email it out to the committee for comment. She said residents concerns didn’t seem to have changed very much in the intervening years, but she thought the format of the older survey was a little cumbersome and could be streamlined.