Here’s what you need to know
- The Clovis City Council met on September 19, 2022 and approved a master plan for the development of the mixed-use “Home Place” section of Loma Vista near Ashlan and Leonard Avenues, despite some uncertainties about water sustainability. Plans for housing include about 1,174 single-family houses and 132 multi-family units. Future public meetings will be held to discuss the types of businesses allowed within the development.
- Clovis IT staff were honored for their work.
- A private entity operating transitional housing, Centers for Living, has opened a thrift-store in Clovis where its clients are employed.
Jose Flores, Mayor
Drew Bessinger, Council member
Lynne Ashbeck, Mayor Pro Tem
Bob Whalen, Council member
Vong Mouanoutoua, Council member
John Holt, City Manager
Scott Cross, City Attorney
Karey Cha, City Clerk
Andy Haussler, Assistant City Manager
Despite the relatively short agenda, this meeting lasted about 2.5 hours and involved a long discussion on the only substantive item, which concerned annexation and development plans for a land parcel within the Loma Vista development. All council members and staff were present, and the meeting began on time after Council Member Mouanoutoua led the flag salute. For those attending virtually, there were no camera views of the audience, but applause broke out several times, indicating that there were a number of in-person attendees. There were four attendees via Webex and 29 via YouTube.
Agenda Item #1 Presentation by the Centers for Living Ministry for Homelessness and Recovery. John Coyle and Dawn McCollum were late, so before they spoke, Mayor Flores skipped to the second agenda item. When Coyle and McCollum arrived, they gave a presentation about their organization, a collection of halfway houses for victims of addiction. They explained that they take no state or federal funding and, despite that, offer services and transitional housing for far less than other programs cost.
They do not advertise or do “outreach” Coyle said, but they are “always full.” He also noted that they “say yes to everybody,” but how they could be full and not refuse new clients at the same time he did not say. They did not disclose funding sources.
Coyle said that they “dodged” funding offers from state, county and federal sources, then corrected himself by saying “not ‘dodged’ but turned down.” He also remarked that “we ‘joke’—well, not ‘joke’— that if we had 50 more homes, we could fill them by the end of November.”
McCollum said, “We try not to sound too pious” and that they advocated “loving someone back into sobriety.” Showing photos of the houses, Coyle said, “As you can see, they’re not living in the ’hood.”
Coyle said that almost every family has a member suffering from addiction or homelessness. Bessinger commented that as a former law-enforcement officer, he had dealt with addiction, homelessness, and mental-health issues, then disclosed that “I lost a son to addiction.” He added, “It was difficult.” Coyle too remarked that he had “his own decade of dysfunction” and a “Ph.D. in addiction” but did not elaborate.
Several Fresno houses are used for the organization’s clients as transitional housing, though whether they own the properties or rent them was not discussed, and a thrift store just opened in Clovis where clients are employed.
Flores asked how neighborhoods reacted and said that “we get the nimbyism.” Coyle explained that when they opened a facility in Fig Garden, “it was an acid bath of nimby,” and “they did everything but burn a cross on the lawn,” but when they “started serving some of the children in their neighborhood,” they were accepted.
Agenda Item #2 Bessinger read a proclamation declaring September 20 “National Information Technology Professionals Day.” Clerk Cha initiated this item. Cyber-security challenges were mentioned, and Flores noted that “every department” in the city relies on the work the IT team does. “Keep those bad guys out,” he implored, mentioning a false bomb threat made at Bullard High School recently. The hoax was made by people “as smart as you” Flores said, addressing the IT staff, adding that the caller had cloned a phone number of a non-profit organization to make the threatening call. Everyone posed for a group photo.
Public Comments for items not on agenda. Council member Whalen noted that there was one public comment which had been received as an email; it concerned a crosswalk. No other comments.
Agenda Items #3-9 (Consent Calendar) By a 5-0 vote, the council approved these items.
Mayor Pro Tem Ashbeck asked regarding item #7, final acceptance of the David McDonald park monument sign, if there would be a ceremony of any kind. City Planner Renee Mathis and City Manager John Holt both said that multiple attempts to reach the family were fruitless. Ashbeck said that it would have been nice to honor the family.
Agenda Item #10 Continued from the September 12 meeting. After a lengthy discussion, the council approved an ordinance which establishes a Master Plan Community (MPC) overlay district for the “Home Place” section of the Loma Vista development while pre-zoning parcels within the Home Place Master Plan, for the purpose of implementing land uses. Also approved was a tract map with over one thousand residential lots. Finally, a planned-development permit for the tract map was also approved. All votes were 5-0.
Dave Merchen of the Planning Department gave a detailed presentation. The property, owned by Sayre Miller of Clovis, would be developed within the Loma Vista specific plan, he said. 25 acres at the center of the land would be retained by the Miller-McFarlane family. He explained that there would be parks, trails, and full infrastructure development and that the site would be designed to have “character and a sense of place.”
Plans for housing are to include about 1,174 single-family houses and about 132 multi-family units. No mention of affordable housing was made. There will be a “historic house” area with a museum. Loma Vista thematic elements would be featured in the architecture; trail extensions were repeatedly emphasized.
Within the area in question, there are a variety of zoned uses. Streets will be publicly accessible; no gates. Discussion of water sustainability was hesitant, one planning commissioner, Mike Cunningham, having objected to the plans; but Merchen insisted that “we addressed those concerns” and that the city was taking a “belt and suspenders” approach to water sustainability.
Whalen hoped Merchen could “enlighten” him about Cunningham’s water concerns; a discussion ensued. Merchen said that the concerns were not about this development per se, but that the system relies on the assumption that there is surface water available, but if drought conditions continue and there is no surface water, we’d be in a different position, Merchen said. In that case, the city would have to implement “a variety of contingency plans.”
Merchen’s colleague, identified only as “Scott,” said that the water supply is within the Fresno Irrigation District (FID); “we have accounted for the water supply and it won’t be an issue serving that development.” Scott added that if there is “an overall catastrophe” and there is no water in the canals because the Kings River is dry, we’ll have “a lot more to worry about” than just one development.
Scott added that there is a “very sustainable” amount of water now and in the future they are “planning for additional water supplies,” though he didn’t say how they would acquire it. FID has assured him that there will be water in the canals, he said.
Whalen seemed persuaded, and he reasoned that Cunningham’s concerns were broader than those affecting this development. If there were concerns about water sustainability, they would affect the whole city, not just this development.
Bessinger asked if “purple pipe” could be used, referring to recycled water. Scott said yes. He also asked about pesticide use within areas of the land used for agriculture (an “island of ag”). Would it affect residents? Merchen said “right to farm” notices would be posted, which would presumably warn about pesticide use.
Ashbeck expressed concern about planning flexibility which she said added ambiguity and confusion. “I worry about the execution,” she said, noting that the initial plans for the Loma Vista development began 20 years ago, and she reflected on what had been learned in the interim.
In reply to Ashbeck, Merchen said that the master plan doesn’t require a “granular” level of detail, just a general “look and feel” to bring it to fruition. He relies on engineering for detail, he said.
The discussion turned toward trails again, and Mouanoutoua said that trails should not cross streets and that some trails afforded good views of houses when decorated for Christmas. He talked at some length, discussing such things as sizes of houses relative to the occupants’ professions, but did not make any substantive points. He belabored the subject of trails crossing streets, continuing to discuss points already talked about.
Public comments were made by Rudy Dubord senior and junior. Dubord père asked about the number of planned homes; he said he had received a mailer about a five-acre parcel. What percentage of the five acres would be green space? Dubord said that he was a “tad bit” confused about how much of the historical area would be open to the public.
Next the younger Dubord spoke: “I’m his kid,” he said. He asked about the possibility of installing a traffic light at Ashlan and Highland and complained about speeding drivers going “frickin’ 60-80 miles per hour.” How much retail space would there be, he wanted to know, and what kind—would there be a bar? Flores responded, “stay tuned” for future public meetings on the subject of types of retail businesses in the development. Bessinger reiterated that there would be public discussion on the subject.
Next Adrienne Burns from Wathen Castanos Homes, a developer who will be building on the land, spoke. She said that there was a lot of “massaging” of the plan, there was mixed use, a community feeling, pedestrian connectivity, and capped density.
Whalen said his “greatest criticism” was that the domestic architecture may not derive from the McFarlane family’s historical structures and could be the “same old” style to be found anywhere else. Burns said, “I appreciate your candid honesty.”
Mouanoutoua asked about the timeline for building to which Burns replied that they would “go with the wave of the market.”
Ashbeck said she wanted to highlight Whalen’s remarks. “My friends Sayre and Jim [Miller/McFarlane]” understand legacy, Ashbeck said, and remarked that the houses in the development shouldn’t be “just tract houses.”
But Flores said he “trusted the free market,” that he favored “what the market will bear.” It was not the job of the council to decide what the houses should look like, per Flores.
After the vote, Ashbeck thanked the Dubords for attending and also asked for a “moment of pause” for the past 20 years of planning this development.
Agenda #11 The council approved 5-0 the annexation of the “Home Place” land.
City Manager Comments Holt showed slides with proposed signage changes for signs around the city hall. Ashbeck said “Don’t get rid of the old city hall sign; it’s an antique like me.” Holt mentioned that these and other updates would be accounted for in the 2023-2024 budget.
Mouanoutoua had no remarks.
Whalen thanked Flores for attending the recent “Walk Like MADD” (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) event. He showed a photo of a section of the Dry Creek Trail and asked about an update on a bridge to be built near there.
Bessinger talked about “Global Entry,” a program of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which allows participants to “breeze through customs” when returning from overseas trips. Currently applicants must go to airports in San Francisco or Los Angeles for the interview process, but he has asked about opening applications at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) and wants to “re-up” the conversation with “federal electeds.” He said that it would help “bring commerce” to the Central Valley, despite the fact that the only international departures and arrivals at FAT are from Mexico. Teasing comments about being a “world traveler” followed.
Ashbeck noted that she will be absent on October 17. Then she remarked that “someone” had fallen on a city sidewalk recently and asked who was liable for paying for medical treatment for injuries—the property owner or the city? If the homeowner was responsible, the city code should be “revisited.” She repeatedly said that “someone” fell and that “it wasn’t me.”
Bessinger spoke again, this time about dead trees and their removal. “In-orchard chipping” should be considered as a means of cutting the trees, so the chips could stay or be used as compost rather than be hauled away.
Closed Session There was one case to be discussed regarding initiating litigation. The public portion of the meeting ended at 8:11 p.m.
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