Planning Commission delays decision on southwest industrial issue
Update of 07/04/2021, 6.30 p.m:
While the issue of rezoning a light industrial area in southwest Fresno was on the agenda, the Planning Commission voted in favor of the postponement with a 5-0 vote.
Will Tackett, of the planning department, said his staff had not had the opportunity to analyze three letters received yesterday. The letters came from two state agencies, the Strategic growth advice, California Air Resources Council, and the Wester Center on Law and Poverty. All opposed the rezone.
There is no specific date the item can be returned. This is the third time that the commission has delayed the hearing of the potential rezone.
The next Planning Commission meeting will take place on April 21.
Industry interests claim the city of Fresno got it wrong when authorities rezoned a 93-acre area in southwest Fresno. Neighborhood advocates disagree and are fighting to keep the zoning change in place.
the The Fresno Planning Commission will hear on both sides tonight and decide if you want to change the zoning of the area bounded by Hwy 41 and Elm Avenue between Vine and Chester / Samson avenues, from mixed neighborhood use to light industry.
It would be a reversal of the 2017 Southwest Fresno Specific Plan, a planning document that neighborhood advocates fought for.
It’s a matter of respecting the community and its environmental justice goals, said opponents of the rezone change.
“We all deserve a new dynamic and prosperous development in our city. When considering expanding the industry in our city, let’s consider our entire city and don’t limit our conversation to adding more industries to Southwest Fresno, an area that continues to suffer for decades. of unfair planning practices, ”said Pastor BT Lewis at a recent press conference, as reported by OMNE News.
John Kinsey, an attorney for several businesses in the area looking for the rezone, said they were never made aware of the zoning change in the first place. He said the neighborhood’s current zoning made no sense.
“It is unfathomable to me that a city would rezone a property adjacent to the highway where there are already people using the property for a different use of the land, especially residential property. It doesn’t make sense in this particular area, ”Kinsey said.
Clearly, the battle lines are drawn. Business interests on one side and neighborhood advocates, environmental and social justice groups on the other.
“It is not enough to slogan One Fresno. We have to be One Fresno, ”Lewis said, playing on Mayor Jerry Dyer’s“ One Fresno ”philosophy.
Current use versus future damage
The area is mostly built, with companies such as Mid-Valley Disposal and Glaxo Smith Kline already there.
“All they want to do is keep doing what they’ve been doing for 15 years. years, ”Kinsey said.
Several community groups and advocates say expanding what is already there would be detrimental to health and the environment.
“We will not contribute to our own demise. We will not support policies, procedures and practices that limit our ability to live, breathe, work and enjoy the fruits of our labor, ”said Dr Venice Curry of Concerned Citizens of Southwest Fresno in a statement. recent press conference.
West Fresno middle and elementary schools are one block away, as are residential neighborhoods.
Kinsey says the land use change is affecting current businesses by securing bank loans and preventing any new businesses from moving in.
This is very good, say social justice advocates.
“The argument that more jobs, whatever the source, is the only solution, is not and has not been the solution to improving the community of southwest Fresno,” wrote community advocacy groups Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability and Fresno Building Healthy Communities in a letter to the city.
Problems related to acquired rights
The letter also indicates that these companies can essentially benefit from acquired rights at their current level of light industrial use.
Kinsey, the lawyer representing several of the companies, said that was not enough to operate light industrial businesses.
“Tenants won’t be looking at these properties because of the risk profile. And frankly, they’re leaving town. We’re losing a lot of business here to Visalia and other surrounding communities, ”Kinsey said.
City Councilor Miguel Arias, whose District 3 covers the area in question, said permits for things like replacing a rubber bumper in a truck loading area were denied due to the change in zoning. This could be seen as an increase in the use of the building.
Arias says he worked with both parties to resolve the issue.
“(The community does not) beware of companies operating in perpetuity. They really welcome it, ”Arias said. “They want to make sure that heavy use does not happen in this area, which at present none of these uses are heavy industrial.”
Several companies that currently occupy the sector
The Planning Commission first discussed the rezone at its February 3 meeting. After nearly 90 minutes of discussion, the commission delayed a decision, ordering claimants asking the rezone to better educate the community on the issue.
Opponents of the rezone modification are encouraging the community to attend.
The meeting takes place tonight, via Zoom, from 6 p.m. The agenda, with the link to the meeting, can be found here.