Documented by Jackie Schuster

  Here’s what you need to know

  • The Visalia City Council unanimously approved authorizing the city manager to amend the current lease agreement with CourseCo, allowing improvements like clubhouse renovation and lighting for the driving range at the Valley Oaks Golf Course.
  • The council approved and adopted an amendment to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that will reprogram and transfer a total of $1.3 million toward the continued construction of the Visalia Navigation Center.
  • The council denied a request to to extend a decision on an oak tree removal permit. An attorney representing a property owner threatened litigation against the city if it did not repeal the approval for oak tree removal.

Follow-up questions

  • If the person requesting the revocation of the removal permit for an oak tree bordering their property is against the tree removal, why did they not attempt to come to an agreement with the neighboring property owner within the 90 days they were given?

Visalia City Council Members 

Liz Wynn, District One

Vice Mayor Brett Taylor, District Two

Mayor Brian Poochigian, District Three

Emmanuel Hernandez Soto, District Four 

Steve Nelsen, District Five

The Scene

The Visalia City Council meeting started at 7:00 p.m. All council members were present.

Actions/Discussions/Public comment

  • The meeting began with a special presentation from Police Chief Jason Salazar to recognize Jennah Creason for winning a gold medal at the International Brandenburg Cup. 
  • Public comment
    • No public comment.
  • Consent Calendar items
    • With no items pulled from the consent calendar, Nelsen moved to approve all items. The motion passed unanimously. 
  • Item 1: Consider a property owner’s request to revoke Oak Tree Removal Permit 23-19
    • Alvin Dias, the Parks and Facilities manager, said the parks team has determined that the location of the oak tree means that it has to be removed for the new construction set to occur in the neighboring lot. The tree is growing into a chain-link fence, and staff determined that the tree’s roots, root collar and tree trunk are encroaching on the area of future public utilities and a street. 
    • Nelsen asked if the removal of the tree was posted properly, and Dias said it was. Nelsen clarified that the 90-day period was meant for both parties involved to come to a decision together and Dias said he has not heard from either applicant. 
    • Nick Ruiz, the attorney for the applicant, asked for another extension of 90 days. He said they had sent their request to the other party. He said if the permit is granted, they will be moving the next day to take legal action against the city to stop the tree removal. Ruiz said if the tree is removed and the fence is allowed, his client will be submitting nuisance claims to the city. The client drives 18-wheelers sometimes for business and the fence construction could restrict their entrance. 
    • Jim Robinson from San Joaquin Valley Homes, the oak tree removal applicant, said he doesn’t support extending the period. He said the actions Ruiz mentioned should have only taken a few days but they went weeks without hearing anything. Robinson said that they are a bit too far apart on the situation to come together for any reasonable agreement. 
    • City Attorney Ken Richardson said litigation is always a possibility but he doesn’t believe any issues Ruiz is raising are of concern to the city. He said it appears Ruiz is trying to leverage this issue to receive different agreements on other issues. He also said that if council members are concerned about the possible litigation they can choose to extend the period again. 
    • Nelsen said he believes if they couldn’t make a decision in 90 days the first time, he doesn’t think another 90-day extension would solve the issue. He said because of Ruiz threatening litigation he would like to deny the request. 
    • Wynn and Taylor both said the litigation threat doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the oak tree’s removal, and as a result, they will support removing the oak tree. 
    • Poochigian also emphasized that this issue is about removing an oak tree, not about any other civil issues between the two parties. 
    • Taylor moved to deny the appeal and uphold their previous approval of Valley Oak Tree Removal Permit 23-19, as recommended by staff. The motion passed unanimously. 
  • Item 2: A public hearing held to discuss modifying improvements in Landscape and Lighting Assessment District Di Mello Toscana
    • Community Development Director Paul Bernal said that when plans for the Visalia RV Storage Park were submitted, the development’s conditional zoning agreement required that the storage park relocate the existing pedestrian access trail on the property to accommodate the development’s three proposed single-family homes. The trail is currently part of the Di Mello Toscana Landscape and Lighting Assessment District, and it requires authorization to modify the district. 
    • On Aug. 21, the developer requested City Council approval to initiate proceedings for the modification of the Landscape and Lighting Assessment District Di Mello Toscana and they later posted the required notice of public hearing. 
    • With no questions from the council and no public comments, Nelsen moved to authorize the modifications of improvements and levying the annual assessments for Assessment District Di Mello Toscana. The motion passed unanimously. 
  • Item 3: A public hearing and approval of the 2022-23 Program Year Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) and Resolution 2023-45
    • Margie Perez, the city’s housing specialist, gave the presentation. The public comment period for the report ended with the public hearing. 
    • In the 2022-23 fiscal year, CDBG had $3.2 million total in funds. The CDBG annual grant provided about $1.2 million, the program took in $231,000 and there was $1.8 million in funds available from previous years.
    • CDBG spent $264,000 on administration, $279,600 on public services, $256,000 on affordable housing and $884,200 on public facility improvements for a total of approximately $1,684,000 in the 2022-23 fiscal year.  
    • CDBG has added audible pedestrian signals at six intersections. Future projects involved making ADA sidewalk improvements from the Transit Center to Main Street, continued construction of the 100-bed low-barrier navigation center and replacing tree wells. 
    • HOME (short for the federal department of Housing and Urban Development’s Home  Investment Partnership Program) spent $17,500 on HOME administration, $1,380 on HOME-ARP administration and about $2.2 million on various HOME projects for a total of about $2.4 million HOME expenditures in the 2022-23 fiscal year. 
    • HOME accomplished building five single-family homes through the CHDO (Community Housing Development Organization) Project. The houses were able to be ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) adapted and one was fully ADA compliant. They also converted the Sequoia Village into 50 units of permanent supportive housing. That project also used the state’s Project Roomkey funds. 
    • HOME funds also paid for The Lofts project with Self-Help Enterprise and are still paying for the project. The Lofts Project is projected to be finished this winter. 
    • HOME will also work on the Majestic Project in the future. 
    • With no public comment, Wynn moved to adopt a resolution approving the Program Year 2022-23 CAPER. The motion passed unanimously. 
  • Item 4: A public hearing to approve and adopt the 2023-24 Annual Action Plan Amendment for CDBG activities and projects
    • Perez also presented this item. The CDBG funding process requires a five-year consolidated plan that establishes project goals, implements approved items, and then amends the plan when there are unspent funds. 
    • The fiscal year 2023-24 Action Plan Amendment includes appropriating other funds to move a total of $1.1 million toward the construction of the Visalia Navigation Center. Some of those funds are being transferred from the ADA Tree Wells project, which will give that project more time to complete design and environmental work before construction. 
    • With no public comment or comments from the council, Nelsen moved to conduct a public hearing, adopt the action plan amendment, authorize the city manager to enter into all contracts listed in the amendment and to submit the amendment to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The motion passed unanimously.  
  • Item 5: Receive a presentation on proposed amendments to the Valley Oaks Golf Course and perform the first reading and adoption of Ordinance 2023-09.
    • Valley Oaks Golf Course General Manager Aaron Hensley said that CourseCO has operated the Valley Oaks Golf Course since 2000, and has attempted to involve the golfing public’s input in their decision-making process. The two most often suggested improvements are renovating the clubhouse and lighting the driving range. 
    • Clubhouse renovations would include adding new flooring in the dining room, new lighting and ceiling fans in the dining room, a new bar counter, new paint throughout the clubhouse, a full-height privacy wall at the cook line, adding new tables,chairs and televisions and refurbishing the bathroom.
    • The clubhouse patio would also be renovated. This would add built-in shade over the patio, connecting the patio and dining room through a “garage door” opening, add climate control and additional tables and chairs. 
    • The current driving range does not have a shade structure or lights for use at night, so renovations would include fully covering the driving range stalls and fitting them with fans and heaters. They would also add sets of sports lights along the driving range for nighttime use. 
    • They also plan to add a new shaded seating section at the back of the driving range that would have a small bar and grill area. 
    • The driving range stalls would also be fitted with a monitor, screen and TopTracer technology. This adds a gaming component to the driving range and virtual golf capability. 
    • Hensley said the renovations benefit the community by improving the food and drink experience for users, improving the event experience of the golf park, increasing capacity for nongolf food and beverage use and expanding the entertainment options. 
    • Assistant City Manager Nick Mascia said making the changes would need a lease amendment extending the term by five years, increasing the base rent, adding a modification regarding the responsibility for maintenance, and adding a modification for land use. 
    • Nelsen asked if these amendments would require continuous capital improvements because they haven’t seen many capital improvements at the golf course in recent years. Mascia said they did leave money in the capital fund, so he thinks this would go toward future capital projects. 
    • Hensley said after the food and beverage improvements have been made,  they should start new capital projects next year. 
    • Poochigian asked if the cost of golfing would go up at all with the renovations. Hensley said that their range use price is a few dollars below the golf course in Tulare and they have a lighted golf course, so the range use price might go up a few dollars. Poochigian also asked if this meant they would have longer hours at the course, to which Hensley said yes. 
    • Wynn moved to accept the presentation and hear the first reading of the ordinance, authorizing the city manager to amend the current lease agreement with CourseCo. The motion passed unanimously. 

With no closed session report, the meeting adjourned at 8:01 p.m. The next Visalia City Council meeting will be held on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m.

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