Dozens of community members filled the Fresno Council Chambers at the August 24 city council meeting to oppose the building of a new car wash next to an adult care facility at the intersection of McKinley and Fine avenues. Omar Rashad | Fresnoland

What's at stake:

After dozens of residents opposed plans for a new car wash, the Fresno City Council voted unanimously to deny the developer's permit application.

The Fresno City Council denied a developer’s application to build a new car wash next to a care facility for adults with disabilities — siding with more than 50 community members and residents who filled council chambers.

The council’s 6-0 vote came after a hearing Thursday in which both sides — concerned community members opposite developer Mohamad Assad’s team — offered their arguments on whether an automatic car wash should be a part of the neighborhood at the intersection of McKinley and Fine avenues about a half mile from Fresno’s airport.

“Based on the information presented today through oral testimony at this hearing, the proposed project is expected to be injurious to the property immediately adjacent to the proposed project, and as such could adversely affect the surrounding area,” said Council President Tyler Maxwell on the council dais.

Maxwell moved to deny Assad’s application for a permit to build the car wash on his commercial property, citing city code 15-2503, which states that developments cannot create “any dangerous, injurious, or noxious conditions, chemical fires, explosive, blight, or other hazards that could adversely affect the surrounding area.”

Councilmember Miguel Arias, who seconded the motion, gave a passionate monologue in favor of dozens of community members’ concerns that a new car wash would have a detrimental impact on the care facility, Rivendell Community, Inc., and its clients — many of whom are adults with autism.

“The residents of Fresno with special needs, autistic health conditions, that are highly sensitive to noise — who were there first — need to be considered for the significant impact that it will create for them,” Arias said.

At one point, the dozens of community members, who have voiced their concerns for months, formed a line for public comment that went outside the council chamber’s large gray doors. They argued that increased traffic would be a danger to the adults who spend time at the adult care facility.

Over 50 Fresno residents and community members filled the council chambers Thursday to oppose a propose car wash development. Omar Rashad | Fresnoland

They also said the car wash’s 16 outdoor vacuums would increase noise in an area that already deals with loud trains on a nearby railroad and airplanes landing and taking off at Fresno’s airport.

While Assad did not comment on his immediate reaction to the vote, his team’s land use consultant, Orlando Ramirez, said he was surprised by the councilmembers’ decision since a car wash is compatible with the proposed site’s light industrial zoning.

“We thought that they would base their actions strictly on land use and land use rights,” Ramirez told Fresnoland. “Take the emotional part out of it, which is what’s required by planning — if the use is a compatible use, you have to provide that owner the opportunity to develop that land for the use.”

Ramirez said he couldn’t share the next steps for him and his client and that they would have to regroup.

The care facility’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, Xiamy Ly-Yang, said her patients with autism can behave unpredictably when they hear loud noises or when their immediate environment drastically changes.

“I have a lot of autistic clients that, when there’s too much noise, they dart out,” Ly-Yang said. “And that’s one of my main concerns.”

She added that the Thursday city council vote was a win for her community.

“I feel that my community came together,” Ly-Yang said. “That’s what’s making this outcome more precious to me.”

In other Fresno City Council news:

The Fresno City Council also voted to allocate $500,000 from the city’s general fund and American Rescue Plan Act funds to renovate the Cecil C. Hinton Center in southwest Fresno. The community center was first opened in 1985 but closed in April for much-needed improvements, according to a staff report.

The City Council also authorized submitting applications for $67 million from the federal government for transportation projects in the City of Fresno. The projects range from street repaving and obtaining electric buses to installing sidewalks and adaptive traffic lights.

A full list of the proposed projects are available here.

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Omar Shaikh Rashad is the government accountability reporter for Fresnoland.

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