This is the location on the corner of Highway 70 and Fairgrounds Road in East Quincy that is being considered for a 34-unit apartment building to house behavioral health and local income clients. Photo by Debra Moore

Plumas board discusses 34-unit apartment building on Fairgrounds Road

By Debra Moore

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Could a 34-unit apartment building be built on the corner of Fairgrounds Road and Highway 70 to provide housing for behavioral health and low-income residents?

It’s in the planning stages and has been for the past six months. That seemed to come as a surprise to Plumas County Supervisors during their Feb. 7 meeting.

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“This is the first time I have heard of it,” said Supervisor Greg Hagwood, who represents Quincy.

The topic came to light when Planning Director Tracey Ferguson asked the board to approve a $2 million-plus grant application that would fund the purchase of the property, and some planning and site work, with the remainder devoted to construction.

The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development authorized $30 million to rural entities, with $2,060,000 earmarked for Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Sierra and Siskiyou counties. Ferguson told the board that at least two of those counties have not applied for the funding, which improves the odds that Plumas will be awarded some portion of the total submitted.

Plumas County would work in collaboration with Sierra County and the Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation (RCHDC) to build the complex. RCHDC would pay for the construction, and Ferguson described the $2 million grant as local leverage. County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero told the board that “RCHDC is on the hook to finance this.”

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Ferguson said the 34 units would house 15 behavioral health clients (split between Sierra and Plumas) with the remainder for low income residents. “The county did commit in 2021 to this relationship,” Ferguson said of an MOU that was signed by all three parties back then, and reiterated that the MOU “says the county is not fiscally responsible.”

“This is such a great deal for Plumas County,” CAO Lucero said. “They (RCHDC) specialize in this. It’s kind of a gift. We are not on the hook to build this.”

“This is as close to a win-win as you can get,” said Tom McGowan, the supervisor who represents the Lake Almanor Basin.

Ferguson told the board that a parcel had been identified in East Quincy and it had been undergoing due diligence after entering an option with the owner. Thus far, six months have been spent studying the property with another 12 months possible.

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Lucero said that there is a similar project in Tehama County, and, as Plumas faces losing transitional housing for its behavioral health clients, this could be an important piece of solving the problem moving forward.

Sheriff Todd Johns said that with the housing would come the potential for increased involvement by the Sheriff’s department. “We are bringing in behavioral health folks from another county,” Johns said. “The state is spending more and more on this housing, but don’t give law enforcement spending,” to respond to the calls for service.

Both Lucero and Ferguson said that there would be a facility manager on site with behavioral health experience and other services would be available as well. Having everyone at one site would be an advantage to Behavioral Health, Lucero said.

Supervisor Greg Hagwood said he recognized the need, “but you have to understand, and it’s a statistically proven fact, there will be a disproportionate need for sheriff and medical” assistance. “You can have a property manager mitigate, but it’s a statistical reality. We need to be aware of that.” Sheriff Johns said that his department was “struggling right now to provide behavioral health services in our jail,” because there aren’t enough clinicians.

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“Where is the actual site?” asked Johns, who was also becoming aware of this project for the first time.

Ferguson said it was a 1.29 acre parcel in the area of Fairgrounds Road along Highway 70, with a dilapidated home on site, already zoned for multi-family residential. (The site is on the northwest corner of Fairgrounds Road and Highway 70.)

Supervisor Hagwood said he knows that the need exists, but “there may be some interests within that neighborhood that might not be as enthusiastic. They need to be aware.”

Ferguson said that under CEQA and NEPA (environmental processes) – public comment would be solicited.

The board voted to approve the grant application.

Following the meeting Hagwood cited the adjacent neighborhood, the park, the swimming pool, and the Charter School as entities that might have concerns with housing behavioral health clients in that location.

“I have significant concerns related to that location for that use. Though I recognize the need, I’m skeptical about the location given the population it will be serving,” he said.

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More information about the project will be shared as it becomes available.

The view of the parcel as it stands now with one vacant structure. This photo was taken on Fairgrounds Road from in front of the recreation district building and its adjacent park and pool. Highway 70 runs behind the home. Photo by Debra Moore