The future of Dame Shirley Plaza and the downtown Quincy business district hangs in the balance as the Judicial Council of California decides where to site a new state courthouse in Plumas County.
How the Council makes that determination will be part of an informational meeting Oct. 4 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Serpilio Hall at the Plumas County Fairgrounds.
Pella McCormick, the director of the Council’s Facilities Services office, will provide background information on the plans to construct a $100 million three-courtroom building in Quincy. She will also address the Council’s process for selecting and acquiring a site for the new courthouse, projected to be a 54,000 square foot building.
It is the site that has provoked the most local controversy. The Council has identified three Quincy properties as potential locations: a Lawrence Street site now occupied by Feather Publishing Co.; the Stonehouse in east Quincy; and Dame Shirley Plaza, a green space adjacent to the Plumas County Courthouse.
Opponents of using Dame Shirley for a courthouse have been vocal and visible, bringing their objections to the Plumas County Board of Supervisors and taking them to the Plaza itself with events to rally opposition. Most cite the open, natural space as an attraction for local residents and tourists alike. It is regularly used for concerts, weddings, memorial services, Tai Chi and dog obedience classes.
As a park surrounded by historic buildings, Dame Shirley Plaza offers the intangible benefits of a village green, said Kyle Merriam, who organized petitions garnering 1300 signatures in opposition to using the space for a courthouse. Selling the Plaza for a courthouse would be “penny rich and pound poor” for the county, said Deb Hopkins. She has presented the supervisors with data documenting the negative effects of construction as well as the potential for a downtown park and green space to revitalize Quincy.
Downtown business owners are almost as vocal, arguing that building a new courthouse anywhere else—even four blocks away —would decimate what they call “the business and government district.” Amy Carey, owner of Carey Candy Co., challenged the extent of public usage of Dame Shirley Plaza. She monitored the number of people engaging in any use of the Plaza between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. throughout September. It was used by approximately 6 people a day, mostly at lunch time, for a grand total of 179 people, Carey said.
In contrast, having the new courthouse next to the existing courthouse would be an economic boon, creating “a government center, a one-stop business center,” Carey said.
Site plans will not be presented
Despite the intense public interest, the Judicial Council’s informational meeting will not include specific site or building plans, said Blaine Corren, a spokesman for the Judicial Council. The project is in the site acquisition phase, with $3.9 million allocated to acquire approximately 1.88 acres for construction.
Steps on the process are described on the Judicial Council’s project webpage for the new Quincy courthouse.
The process for site selection, acquisition and building will be at the core of the Oct. 4 public meeting, he said. It will not focus on Dame Shirley Plaza or any of the other potential sites, said Corren.
And it will not include the Plumas County Board of Supervisors as the county’s governing body. The supervisors have been invited to attend, and several plan to do so as individuals. But Corren said the only role the Board of Supervisors plays is whether to sell the Dame Shirley Plaza site for courthouse construction.
The Judicial Council asked the supervisors to decide by Aug. 8 if they were willing to sell Dame Shirley Plaza. Instead, on Aug. 1 the supervisors tabled the decision and asked the council to present the project to the public in detail at a community meeting to be held in Quincy.
The Council is waiting to hear from the supervisors as to whether the county would be a willing seller, said Corren. Asked if the Judicial Council has the power to acquire the property through eminent domain, he said he would provide that information after asking Facilities Services staff.
Judicial Council officials will use a matrix of criteria to score and rank potential sites against the site criteria established in a site acquisition policy, Corren said. Criteria include proximity to downtown and jail facilities, and whether the space has previously been developed.
Once the three sites already identified are ranked against these criteria, the findings will be reviewed and analyzed by the Judicial Council, the Superior Court of Plumas County, and the project advisory group, which includes local residents.
That will confirm one preferred and one alternate site. Those two sites will then be presented to the council’s Administrative Director and at a public meeting of the council’s Court Facilities Advisory Committee, said Corren. The public can provide written or in-person comments at these committee meetings.
The Oct. 4 public information meeting will be available via livestream at https://jud-ca-gov.zoomgov.com/j/1612154915. Audio: (669) 254-5252 or (669) 216-1590, Webinar ID: 161 215 4915.