Here’s what you need to know:
- The Fresno Planning Commission moved forward a General Plan amendment to rezone 18.9 acres in Southwest Fresno from residential to light industrial. The amendment will allow for the construction of a proposed 477,400 square-foot Busseto Foods production, warehouse and distribution facility on West and Church Avenues. The site was previously zoned for industrial use, but changed to residential in the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan.
- The commission denied the appeal of a Conditional Use Permit application authorizing the construction of an 80-foot mono-pine Verizon telecommunications tower and facility with ground equipment located on Mono and R Streets abutting Highway 41.
- After hearing concerns from several neighborhood residents, the commissioners continued to June 1 a rezone application to remove conditions that restrict a site at West Bullard and North Del Mar Avenues to be used as a school or college. The location was formerly used by the Milan Institute.
The meeting (in full)
The Fresno Planning Commission meeting took place on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. The agenda states that public comments can still be submitted electronically or via Zoom or call in. Meetings also continue to be viewable on CMAC.
The commission currently has two open seats after former Chair Kathy Bray resigned in November 2021, reportedly with the intention to run for the Fresno Unified School Board, and Robert Fuentes resigned in January 2022 to move back to his hometown of Porterville.
Names of officials:
Peter Vang, Chairperson (also Associate at Thiesen Dueker Financial Consulting Group)
Brad Hardie, Vice Chair (also President of Regency Property Management)
David Criner, Commissioner (also pastor at Saint Rest Baptist Church)
Monica Diaz, Commissioner
Haley Wagner, Commissioner (also insurance agent for the Arthur J. Gallagher brokerage)
Criner, Vang, Diaz and Wagner were in council chambers. Hardie was present by audio.
Director of Planning & Development Jennifer Clark and Planning Manager Will Tackett were also in council chambers.
Vang asked if translation services were available and Clark said they were not available today.
There were no changes to the agenda. No commissioner reports were made.
Hardie said that he would be recusing himself from the Verizon telecommunications tower item.
- Approved the minutes of the May 4, 2022 meeting.
- Approved vesting tentative tract map for a KB Homes 200-lot single-family development on approximately 36.87 acres on the northwest corner of East Florence and South Peach Avenues.
- After being continued twice previously, the commission denied the appeal of a Conditional Use Permit application for the construction of an 80-foot mono-pine Verizon telecommunications tower and facility with ground equipment located on Mono and R Streets abutting Highway 41.
- Item was continued from April 20 and again on May 4 due to lack of quorum.
- Planner Steven Martinez presented the item.
- Located at 640 R. Street in Council District 3 (Arias).
- Received six letters in opposition, including from the Huntington Park Condominium Village Board of Directors, and one in support.
- Commissioner Hardie recused himself since he is also president of Regency Property Management, which manages Huntington Park Condominium Village.
- Wagner asked if there were any other towers in the vicinity. Martinez said there is one in the Slush Puppies parking lot.
- Diaz asked if there were any alternative locations south of Ventura Blvd.
- Applicant is Tricia Knight of TEK Consulting Inc. on behalf of Verizon Wireless.
- Tricia Knight, Peter Ferreri, Walt Kohls and Paul Albritton were on Zoom representing Verizon:
- Knight said a service gap was identified in fall 2019 that led them to begin researching sites in 2020.
- The tower will provide new reliable in-building service to 6,190 residents and service in roadways including Highway 41.
- She said they had a Zoom call with the appellants on May 3, which was about an hour long.
- Albritton also spoke via Zoom.
- Harry Moore was in council chambers and said he owns the property where the proposed tower would go.
- “The tower will improve our service so we believe it’s a very important project,” he said.
- Sean Boyd, resident of Huntington Park Condominium Village in Downtown Fresno, presented in council chambers, along with neighbors Ranee Johnson and Larry Taylor.
- Vang said that he would give him nine minutes to present.
- He said the planning commission approved the condos 41 years ago.
- “This is some of the best affordable housing that any of the community has to offer,” he said.
- “When we wake up in the morning this is what we’re going to see out our windows and it’s an eyesore,” he said.
- He said they proposed a decorative obelisk instead of the tree.
- He read a letter from Joseph and Renee Johnson, residents of the condominium complex who could not attend the meeting.
- Larry Taylor said his home overlooks the proposed site.
- He played a drone video showing several Downtown landmarks.
- He showed a photo of the Bitwise parking lot and described where he thought would be the, “ideal place for the centerpiece.”
- Another resident, Jerry Starkweather, was also in chambers. She said that the letter from Verizon attorneys on page four says that the proposed tower is the “least intrusive,” but she said it is the most blighted view for their condos.
- She said she’ll be able to look out her skylight and see the tower.
- She said this is a chance to enhance the city and Downtown Fresno by placing an artistic piece in a suitable location.
- Marcia Vanderpool said that she was opposed due to the lack of safety. She said that she is a member of Children’s Health Defense.
- Albritton said the surface on an obelisk limits their ability to add devices as needed.
- “The limitations of an obelisk style make that much more difficult,” he said.
- He said the Del Webb building site has been overloaded and they are trying to serve the other side of the freeway.
- He said they have to stay 100 yards away from a facility that was suggested per the code and there is also an issue with a solar panel impeding their ability to locate at another location.
- Walt Kohls spoke on behalf of Verizon. He said that they have a lot of trees along the freeway already and they aren’t getting complaints about how ugly they are.
- Diaz asked how long the property would be leased and what happens when it expires.
- Albritton said that Verizon Wireless is building its network for some level of permanence.
- He said the lease will have a five-year term with options to continue for up to 25 years.
- He said it conditions complete removal of the equipment upon the termination of the lease.
- He said it also requires colocation so that other carriers can use it for their equipment.
- Wagner asked if there have been any meetings with the community about the aesthetic design and how the view could be shielded from the Huntington Park Condos.
- Albritton said he thought they had found a place that was at least 400 feet away from homes.
- He said they can’t do a master plan of where they’ll put towers for the future because the FCC changes the frequencies and that technology demands would expand as much as it has.
- He said they haven’t held community meetings in various areas, but that they would be pleased to participate in any type of process that the Planning Commission wants to put together in terms of design or placement.
- Vang said that he extends his gratitude to the residents of Huntington Park Village for their patience with this matter.
- “If the only resolve is to not build, we as a commission have to rely on what data is given to us,” he said. “It does fall within the guidelines.”
- Continued to June 1 a rezone application removing conditions that restrict the site to a school or college for property located at West Bullard and North Del Mar Avenues, which was formerly the site of Milan Institute.
- Planner Aubrey Richardson presented the item.
- Vang asked when she received correspondence about the location. She said she received most of the correspondence yesterday.
- Austin Enterprises is the property owner and their attorney Brady was in council chambers.
- He said that its use as a school or university isn’t very feasible at this point.
- “Our goal here is to make the property freely marketable without the condition tying it to institution or school use,” he said.
- Jodi Austin called into the meeting and said she supports what her attorney said.
- In opposition, Lisa Flores said that she would like to see it continue in the zoning that it is.
- She suggested the family talk to the City about a location where they could put a senior center or homeless housing, such as a tiny home village.
- Glenda Green said that she lives three houses behind the school.
- She said that she has lived there 30 years and her concern is that they don’t really know what kind of business they are planning on putting there.
- She said that it went into escrow two days ago.
- “It would appear that somebody has known for some time and we’ve tried to find out what kind of business is going there,” she said.
- She said that they don’t want a homeless shelter there.
- Marcia Vanderpool said that the neighboring property owners did not receive proper notification.
- She said that the City of Fresno needs to know that the Planning Department is doing things behind their backs and it needs to stop.
- Another resident of the neighborhood was in council chambers. She said that they don’t want their neighborhood changed and want the zoning to stay as it is.
- Joann Zuniga spoke in a neutral position. She said that she doesn’t want it to remain vacant, but her hesitation is that the PI zone district would allow for a variety of uses.
- “Not knowing what the owner and family want from this property, it’s difficult to have more of a voice pro or con,” she said.
- Rodney Delara also spoke in opposition due to an increase in foot and vehicle traffic.
- He said he’s had the theft and damage to his property as it is.
- He said they don’t want low-income housing or a homeless shelter and they should leave the zoning alone.
- Another resident Josie said she was concerned that it could be used as a multi-unit residential or a substance abuse clinic.
- She asked what prompted the rezoning application and why is there a lack of transparency.
- Resident Priscilla said that this property is already in escrow so this condition needs to be removed in order to move forward the sale.
- “My big concern is that it could possibly be a substance-abuse treatment center,” she said. “This is basically in my backyard.”
- She said she would like it to be a “library or something else that is beneficial for the area.”
- Ava Aguiar said that she lives directly behind the building and also spoke in opposition.
- Maria Quinones also spoke in opposition. She said that they already have issues with homeless and theft, which is her main concern.
- Wheeland Vanderpool said that he is there with many of his neighbors that are rallied there with the common theme of safety.
- He said that they could walk their streets and feel safe until recently.
- He said that he has seen a degradation in their area over the last 6-7 years.
- He proposed that the property be used for fire or police.
- Planning and Development Manager Will Tackett said that a substance abuse facility would require a conditional use permit and the neighborhood would be notified. Multi-family housing is not allowed in the PI zone.
- He said it currently can’t be used for anything other than a school in its current zoning.
- Wagner said that CUPs also require additional findings on the neighborhood about whether certain uses are in line with the neighborhood.
- Criner said that he is looking around and sees some of the community members looking “perplexed.”
- He clarified that tonight they are only looking at the rezoning and later they would have a conversation about what the proposal could be.
- It will go to the city council on May 26.
- Criner said that he was concerned about the amount of concern from the neighbors not receiving adequate notification.
- Vang said that since they need more time to communicate with their city council member on this issue.
- Hardie moved to approve staff recommendations to approve the rezone, it was not seconded.
- Vang then moved to continue the item to June 1.
- Approved moving forward to the city council a General Plan amendment to rezone 18.9 acres in Southwest Fresno from residential to light industrial. The amendment will allow for the construction of a proposed 477,400 square-foot Busseto Foods production, warehouse and distribution facility on West and Church Avenues.
- According to the agenda packet, they held a Zoom neighborhood meeting on Oct. 15, 2020 and no residents joined the meeting.
- On Jan. 26, 2022 they held another meeting and it was well received.
- Planner Phillip Siegrist presented the item.
- An existing Busseto Foods facility is located across the street.
- He said that all trucks entering the facility will be entering from West Avenue and all other guests and employees will enter along Church Avenue.
- Busseto Foods currently has four facilities west of highway 99 and its existing facility is located across the street from the proposed facility.
- He said the proposed facility would allow them to combine those facilities and focus traffic, saving them 10 to 14 truck trips per day.
- Under the current zoning, 94-227 dwelling units.
- Siegrist said there would be a requirement for an additional traffic signal.
- The city council would have to “concurrently” approve a separate proposal or initiative that would offset the potential loss of dwelling units.
- Staff has received three comment letters, which are included in the staff report.
- He said they also received a letter at 4 p.m. that afternoon, which he said would be addressed.
- Wagner asked if it would increase employment opportunities. Siegrist said it would create 180 additional jobs and maintain all the existing jobs.
- Criner asked about the reduction of 227 future dwelling units and if they didn’t look at other possible locations that wouldn’t remove homes from Southwest Fresno.
- Siegrist said it was previously zoned for industrial use, then it changed with the Southwest Fresno specific plan.
- Architect Armen Devejian spoke on behalf of Busseto Foods:
- He said that Randy Hergenroder from Busseto Foods and a representative from Precision Engineering were also in council chambers.
- He said that they are working with the city to find those 227 dwelling units elsewhere.
- He said the property was purchased in 2007 with the intention for industrial expansion.
- He said it was “zoned out from underneath them” with the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan.
- He said the mixed used text amendment is in process and it will be used as the offset for losing 227 housing units.
- He said it is truly a consolidation of four property uses into one.
- He said they will eliminate 40 internal truck trips each week.
- He said the truck trips would only be going out of the facility south on West Ave. and east on Jensen Ave. to the freeways.
- He said that 50 cars currently have to park along Church Ave. and this expansion would allow them to create a parking lot for them.
- He said he believes they now have advocates in the community that want this development after the second community meeting.
- He said there will be green spaces for employees to take breaks and an outdoor covered pavilion.
- “It will be aesthetically probably the best looking thing on Church Avenue other than Gaston Middle School and the City College,” he said.
- Vang asked how many employees Busseto Foods currently has. Devejian said two of the four current facilities aren’t manned, but are storage facilities and they have 160 current employees.
- They will add 180 jobs at “full build out.”
- Vang asked what would happen to the older sites.
- Devejian said the office would be sold and the cold storage sites are leased. The other facility on Church Ave. may be “retooled or sold.”
- Diaz asked if the 180 new employees would be Fresno residents.
- Devejian said that they did a VMT study and found that 80% live within five miles of the facility.
- He said that they’ve committed to hold three to four job fairs per year for Southwest Fresno residents and with the City College.
- Criner said that trucks have historically leaked fluids and asked if they would do that.
- Devejian said he can’t control what the trucks do, but there is an effort to maximize the electrification of trucks.
- He said those on site won’t be idling and will be plugged in for refrigeration.
- Matt Arndt of Busseto Foods spoke via Zoom.
- Attorney John Kinsey spoke in support of the project on behalf of landowners on Church Avenue.
- He said those landowners have property that is fully built out.
- He said they were not noticed of the change in zoning as part of the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan.
- He said that they would like to receive the same consideration in regards to SB330.
- Micahel Lozeau said they retained an expert biologist who prepared a baseline review on the site to document wildlife.
- He said that his visits showed there was a lot more wildlife on the site.
- Lisa Flores of the Tower District said she doesn’t know if she’s for or against this project, but that she has some issues.
- She said that she has issues with moving light industry there and with the traffic.
- “You’re going to have almost 400 traffic movements coming in the area of West and Church Streets,” she said.
- She asked why the applicant wasn’t moving for all-electric trucks at this point.
- She also asked what type of pollutants they will be using.
- “I just don’t like taking out housing when we are in a housing crisis,” she said.
- She also asked who would be paying for a traffic light and if they are getting that through developer fees.
- Lastly, she asked how the majority of the employees come from a five-mile radius and if they were in the 06 zip code that this is in.
- Kiel Lopez-Schmidt spoke on behalf of the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan development.
- He said there was a specific work group assigned to discuss industrial planning.
- He said everyone was publicly noticed within the planning area and any statement otherwise is false.
- He said the neighborhood was solidly against industrial planning in the neighborhood.
- He said parks are always located next to these industrial spaces, which are not healthy places.
- “This is just not acceptable based on what the community’s vision is and what the environmental standards are,” he said.
- Devejian responded to Flores’ comments saying that there are no pollutants because everything on site has to be edible because they are dry meat.
- He said they unpackage frozen meats and cure them, store them and repackage and ship them.
- He said there is a ponding basin near their facility, but there is no park.
- Genny Gemerson spoke about the environmental assessment.
- She said there was a biological assessment done and believes none of the comments made by Lozeau are relevant.
- Wagner moved to approve the rezone, seconded by Vang, Criner voted no, Diaz, Harding approved.
- Motion passes 4-1.
- According to the agenda packet, they held a Zoom neighborhood meeting on Oct. 15, 2020 and no residents joined the meeting.
During unscheduled communications, Lopez-Schmidt shared his experience in the South Tower neighborhood with Producers Dairy:
- He said the whole environmental impact process for the truck rerouting process has not been followed through. He said the environmental impact report “has been sat on by the City of Fresno and has not been brought to any sort of public vote or conclusion.”
- “Meanwhile, Producers has rerouted their trucks in partnership with the City of Fresno and I think that’s in violation of our kind of environmental standards within the neighborhood,” he said. “We’d very much like this issue to be resolved and brought forth and the community to know what’s going to happen with this industrial impact in our neighborhood.”
The meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m. The next meetings are scheduled forJune 1 and 15. They usually occur on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.
If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at Documentersfirstname.lastname@example.org with “Correction Request” in the subject line.