Here’s what you need to know:
- The Clovis City Council heard from several residents concerned about the possible demolition of the historic Carnegie library building currently owned and occupied by the Clovis Chamber of Commerce. It was built in 1914 and Council Member Whalen said it was given to the chamber in 2018 with the intent that they would restore and remodel it to meet current ADA standards, not demolish it.
- In a 2-1 vote, the council denied the initiation of an application to amend the General Plan and Loma Vista Specific Plan with regard to street alignments, land use patterns and master plan boundaries for the area designated as the Eastern Village within the Loma Vista Specific Plan. The denial puts the onus back on the development community to request changes to the General Plan.
- The council members also moved forward an up to $70,000 consultant agreement with De Novo Planning Group to review the 2014 General Plan and prepare for a future General Plan update as early as 2023.
The Clovis City Council meeting took place on May 2, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. According to the agenda, the meeting was made available via Webex and YouTube Live.
At the start of the meeting, five attendees were present via Webex and one attendee was watching live via Youtube at the start of the meeting.
Clovis City Council Members:
Jose Flores, Mayor (also Chief of Police, State Center Community College District Police Department)
Lynne Ashbeck, Mayor Pro Tem (also Senior Vice President Community Engagement and Population Wellness, Valley Children’s Healthcare)
Vong Mouanoutoua, Council Member (also External Relations and Project Development Director, Community Medical Foundation)
Bob Whalen, Council Member (also Fresno County Deputy District Attorney and candidate for Fresno County Superior Court judge)
Drew Bessinger, Council Member (also Chief of Police, Fresno Yosemite International Airport)
Mayor Flores and Council Member Bessinger are absent, so Ashbeck led the meeting. Ashbeck led the council in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mouanoutoua presented a proclamation recognizing Wilma Tom Hashimoto as Mother of the Year. He said she is known as “Mama Hashimoto” and will be honored with fellow nominees at the 78th annual Fresno County Mother of the Year luncheon on Friday, May 6.
- She was in council chambers and thanked the council for the recognition. She was surprised and thought she was coming to make a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) presentation. So they allowed her to make the presentation:
- She introduced Angie Martinez, senior advocate for CASA.
- They need more volunteers and have a waiting list of 75 in both Fresno and Madera Counties.
Ashbeck then presented plaques to outgoing Personnel Commissioners Kari Mercer and Darren Rose for their years of service. Mercer said it has been a pleasure to have the ability to see the inner workings of the City of Clovis. Rose thanked the council for the opportunity.
Whalen then presented a proclamation declaring May 1 to 7 as Teacher Appreciation Week. He asked all teachers in attendance to stand before he read the proclamation.
Lastly, Ashbeck read a proclamation declaring May as Mental Health Matters Month.
From there, the meeting was open for public comment:
- Tom Keeton said he has been a resident of Clovis since 1947 and he lives in a neighborhood near Shaw and Minnewawa. He said they have neighbors that throw garbage in the street and it’s bringing rats and blowing into their yard.
- Ashbeck asked if they are owners or renters, he said they were owners.
- He said that the house burned down and it was recently rebuilt. But they have broken screens and mattresses and toilets outside.
- City Manager John Holt said that code enforcement would respond.
- Ashbeck asked Andy Haussler to meet him in the lobby and get his information.
- Ashbeck said they have another public item regarding the Carnegie Library that she would hold until that item.
- Approved minutes from the April 18 meeting.
- Approved adoption of a military equipment use policy pursuant to AB 481.
- Received and filed Business Organization of Old Town Third Quarter Report.
- Received and filed Economic Development Corporation Servicing Fresno County Third Quarter Report.
- Received and filed investment report for January 2022.
- Received and filed treasurer’s report for January 2022.
- Approved bid award for Barstow Avenue street improvements.
- Approved amending the police department budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 to reflect the California Department of Justice Tobacco grant award of $97,640.
- Approved amending the 2021-2022 police department budget to reflect the award of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants Program in the amount of $17,709.
- Received and filed update on 325 Pollasky Avenue, the current Clovis Chamber of Commerce Building.
- Presented by Assistant City Manager Andy Haussler.
- Historic building needs $150,000 to $160,000 in renovations.
- One of 2,500 Carnegie Libraries built in 1914.
- Community library until 1976.
- 1986 Fresno County Historical Society noted the building on their list.
- Currently does not comply with ADA laws so it can’t be open to the public.
- The Chamber requested to be released from their agreement last year.
- The Chamber has not indicated to the city what plans are for the building or property.
- No applications have been submitted to the city for review.
- Mouanoutoua asked if the city has been involved in any plans.
- He asked if eminent domain was an option and Haussler said it was, but it is private property as it is.
- Holt said that if they come forward with something within zoning laws, they would have limited oversight.
- Mouanoutoua asked if they have any historical preservation at all.
- Ashbeck said that it is time they have a historical preservation committee that is dedicated to the preservation of what makes Clovis, Clovis, including the Garfield School, brick arch, etc.
- Sherri Miller was in attendance on behalf of Peg Voss, she became aware of the Chamber’s secret to demolish this building and build a new building. “They are intent on tearing down this building,” she said.
- Architect Paul Halajian was in council chambers and said he is a member of the Fresno Historical Preservation Society. He said he worked with the chamber to create a plan that would meet their needs and preserve the historical building, but it would cost between $2 and $3 million.
- Beth Christiansen was in council chambers. “I have a great appreciation for Clovis history and it’s in my heart,” she said. “I just want to say from the historical society point of view, we would definitely like to see that building preserved to continue to be part of Old Town Clovis.”
- Tom Wright was also in council chambers. He said that they all wore matching yellow T “If a big giant bulldozer goes over there and starts knocking down that building, it’s going to get ugly,” he said.
- He said that Clovis Unified demolished buildings and he can see the same thing happening with the Clovis Chamber.
- “They agreed to do something and made a commitment,” he said. “They got the property because they made a commitment, yet here we are.”
- He said that his purpose was to ask the council and staff members to meet with the chamber and explain to them that this is a difficult situation that they need to resolve and the library needs to be preserved.
- “We hope that one day all of us will be standing together for the ribbon cutting of the nice, new renovated Carnegie Library,” he said.
- Ashbeck said the Chamber is an important part of Clovis too.
- William Smittcamp was in council chambers. He said that he was president of the chamber in 1978 and he knows how difficult it is to make ends meet. “I think there’s plenty of ways that the chamber, the group that’s here and the city can make things work,” he said.
- He said he learned how to read in the basement of the Carnegie Library.
- Falina Marihart attended via WebEx. She asked if the chamber gives the building back to the city, what would happen to the building.
- Haussler said there hasn’t been discussion of that yet, but it could be part of the discussion going forward.
- Wright said that there was an organization interested in purchasing the building.
- Miller said that she thought fundraising for the building would not be that challenging. But said they don’t need more conference space on Pollasky Avenue.
- She also noted that $3 million was to build a conference space, not to preserve the building.
- Ashbeck said the letter they received was asking them to save the library.
- Whalen said that a couple of errors were made by the City of Clovis when they did not file the reversionary interest with the county court. He said it later created a problem in 2018 when they then passed a resolution giving the building to the chamber with the reversionary in place.
- Whalen read excerpts from the agreement in 2018 without the reversionary in place.
- He said that they thought eliminating the reversionary in 2018 was so they could remodel or restore the building, not tear it down.
- Mouanoutoua said that without historical buildings like this, the residents of Clovis are “lost.”
- Asbheck again said that it’s the right time to create a Clovis Historical Preservation Committee.
- Denied the initiation of an application to amend the General Plan and Loma Vista specific plan with regard to street alignments, land use patterns and master plan boundaries for the area designated as the Eastern Village within the Loma Vista Specific Plan.
- Presented by City Planner Dave Merchen.
- He said this decision is whether or not this should be a city-initiated project versus the development community.
- He said the design & functionality of the curvilinear alignments is still desirable. “We kinda like them, they add value to the community,” he said.
- But the development community has “slowed down their ability to move into this area of Loma Vista.”
- He said that when single owners have blocks of land, they support the curvilinear street alignments, but when it’s mixed ownership of smaller parcels, it has been an issue.
- He said the revised concept would use roundabouts and grid patterns.
- He said one thing that came out of community meetings is the need to play close attention to about 50 acres owned by Sanger Unified and how a school would affect traffic patterns.
- The Loma Vista Master Plan, part of it set to come before the council in June or July. He said it is a McFarland owned ranch.
- He said the biggest factor that would support separating out the master plan areas, is the yellow area in the Eastern Village.
- He said the development community said they are ready to start that work now.
- Mouanoutoua asked if it will incur additional costs and studies, such as infrastructure, planning or EIR for changing it.
- Merchen said that it doesn’t add any new requirements that aren’t already in place. He said the intent is to make it a more streamlined process.
- Mouanoutoua asked if it would keep the same amount of land for each use.
- Merchen said that is the intent to keep the acreage the same, but there are some state laws that would make sure they don’t reduce the residential capacity.
- Mouanoutoua asked if it would impact the current VMT study and Merchen said they haven’t identified any impacts.
- He asked about the 18-19 owners who have seen this. Merchen said some owners were very interested because it would allow them to sell their property quicker.
- Mouanoutoua asked about the Home Place and trail configuration. Merchen said they would look at the trails and street alignments as part of the amendment process to make sure they didn’t create any new conflicts.
- “I think that the gateways and the monuments won’t be affected by any of the changes,” he said.
- Whalen said that he’s “not convinced.” He said that as the city they should “place constraints” on the development community, not remove them.
- “I’m not persuaded that the constraints aren’t impossible to overcome,” he said.
- He said there was a time for the land owners and even developers to say that they don’t like the curvilinear streets when they created the Master Plan.
- “I have concerns that as we continue to carve out what used to be and still is a beautiful plan for the Loma Vista community, we’re just going to end up with a north, south, east, west grid and trails are going to become sidewalks,” he said.
- “I don’t want us to be a party to tearing down what is a really good plan,” he said.
- “I’m not persuaded that we should be a party to initiating these changes,” he said.
- Ashbeck said she agreed with Whalen. “I do think what’s at risk here is the spirit of that Loma Vista plan,” Ashbeck said.
- “I’m not persuaded that we need to be the owners of this, people can ask us to change because that’s what we do,” she said.
- She said she still thinks it’s one master plan as well.
- Sherri Miller said that a large part of the land is owned by her and her siblings.
- She said that she has background on who brought it and why.
- She said that she doesn’t consider the process transparent and she is shocked.
- She said she thinks some land use changes do need to be done.
- She said they can have two wonderful school districts in Clovis with Sanger Unified and its plan for the high school and a new elementary school.
- Darius Assemi said they have been looking at that area for several years.
- He said they like curvilinear streets, but that the sight lines are an issue and makes them more dangerous.
- He said the biggest challenge is the property owned by Sanger Unified, which is the business park and high density.
- He said the Master Plan encompasses 300-400 acres, which includes a business park that is years away from development. He said they wouldn’t put an office park on the edge of town because it needs to be near other amenities.
- He said they do the curvilinear streets internally to make it more appealing and the issue here is the land use. “It gets really difficult to deal with small, odd-shaped parcels,” he said.
- He said Ashlan would work well internally.
- Mouanoutoua asked about going the traditional route with a general plan amendment rather than having the city do it and incur any costs associated with it.
- Merchen said that they’ve done it both ways.
- Merchen said the initial discussions were mainly focused on just the residential area and cleaning it up to make it more “straight forward” to develop.
- He said each change was having a domino effect on the neighboring properties.
- “As we got into it, really the entirety of the Eastern Village was affected,” he said.
- Assemi said all of them met with property owners in the council chambers.
- Whalen said that he has been on the council since 2003 and he’s been interested in the economics of development.
- He asked Assemi if they don’t make the changes to the curvilinear roads then they won’t purchase the property because it won’t pencil out for them.
- “It can’t be any surprise when you take a look at a piece of property what the expectation is,” he said.
- He said that you choose to invest in it and you try to change our mind so it becomes more financially feasible for you.
- To which, Assemi said how do we build that triangle.
- He went on to say that they are forecasting coming out of the recession in 2024 and start developing then.
- Whalen agreed that it is a challenge with the various land uses, but all of the stakeholders that put together the General Plan agreed upon this.
- “It is a challenge, I understand it’s a challenge, but I am confident that you or whoever chooses to purchase this property will overcome those challenges with a unique design,” Whalen said.
- Assemi asked if they could postpone the decision and for them to come back with a modified grid design and bring Sanger Unified to the meeting.
- Mouanoutoua voted yes and Ashbeck and Whalen voted to deny.
- Approved a request authorizing the City Manager to execute a consultant agreement between the City of Clovis and De Novo Planning Group for services related to preparation for the 2014 Clovis General Plan Review and guidance document.
- Presented by Deputy City Planner Ricky Caperton.
- He said the preliminary general plan in 1963 was 10-11 pages long, then the first general plan was established in 1974, then 1993 and 2014 and possibly an update earlier than 21 years.
- De Novo was at $60,000 and they are recommending a $10,000 contingency.
- Ben Ritchie, founding principal for De Novo Planning Group, was in council chambers. He said he’s been managing general plans throughout the state for many years.
- Whalen asked if they’ve done this prequel to a general plan update and Caperton said they did not in 2014.
- He also asked if De Novo could participate in the general plan update if they do this portion of the work. Caperton said they could apply for it, but it is a separate project.
- Whalen asked if they have experience with VMT and Ritchie said that they have done work with that and said he could “bend his ear” on it.
- He said what they will do with this is make recommendations that help them see the big picture and strategize for the next 15-20 years.
- Whalen said for him the measurement of success isn’t if they do what they want them to do, but if the general plan functions well.
- Ritchie said that they’ve provided on-call SEQA services for other communities, which is his “greatest benchmark.”
- Mouanoutoua asked if this is the point that they direct the work, Caperton said they could, but there would be more public outreach later.
- He asked if at some point they will review the codes and get rid of some that no longer apply.
- Mouanoutoua asked if they could rely on him to provide guidance or if they have to tell him.
- Ritchie said that he will ask questions and they will lay out the tools and recommendations so that when the RFP goes out for the general plan update they’ll “feel confident that it’s well refined.”
- Ashbeck said she thinks one of the challenges they’ll run into is that the city hasn’t updated its vision in a long time, so they may need to update that in the process.
- Sherri Miller said that she served on the last general plan amendment committee.
- She said that she thinks they should take into account historical places, such as Healdsburg, rather than Southern California.
- “If you get a Southern California planner, you will have the entire state looking like Southern California, which is not what we want,” she said.
Ashbeck opened the meeting for comments by City Manager John Holt:
- Holt pointed out the new signage in chambers.
Ashbeck then opened the meeting for council comments:
- Mouanoutoua said the Measure C Committee met and they will be looking at the allocation formula soon and have an in-person meeting on May 4.
- He said they also had a CalCities housing development meeting. He said two bills would be support if amended.
- He said they also voted on a definition of local control. “I’m hoping that the cities will move to protect local control once and when the staff bring something forward on that,” he said
The council moved into closed session at 9:04 p.m. to discuss anticipated litigation and real property negotiations for 2791 Serena Avenue. Holt said they are not requiring any action on the items tonight. The next Clovis City Council meeting is May 9 and 16 (noted as a budget introduction).
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