Documented by Artemes Gidram

Here’s what you need to know

  • The Fresno County Planning Commission denied an appeal and upheld the approval of an ag trucking facility in an exclusively ag zone near Brawley and Church avenues. Donald Miranda trucking will be allowed to use the lot for parking and maintaining vehicles used for agricultural purposes, which will increase traffic in the area by an estimated five to 20 traffic trips per day, according to the staff report. 
  • Nick Sahota was denied his request to create a new two-acre parcel from his property outside of Selma in order to build a home. 
  • The commissioners approved a one-year extension of an unclassified conditional use permit was granted for the purposes of allowing a connection to an existing pipeline to deliver renewable natural gasses. The permit was granted to WTE Riverdate LLC, which plans to build a dairy digester facility that will connect to an existing California Energy Exchange pipeline.

Follow-up questions

  • Will Nick Sahota be able to create his proposed parcel of land?
  • What can be done to allow the commission to approve the parcel?


The scene

The Fresno County Planning Commission meeting took place on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 8:47 a.m.

The meeting was held in person at 2281 Tulare St. in Fresno and over audio on the Fresno County Planning Commission’s website. The agenda is available on the county website.

Name of Officials:

Ken Abrahamian, chair

Glenda Hill, vice chair

Austin Ewell, commissioner, absent.

Esther Carver, commissioner

Kuldip Chatha, commissioner

John Arabian, commissioner

Lisa Woolf, commissioner

Blake Zante, commissioner

  • Consent agenda with one item
  • Unclassified conditional use permit, first one-year time extension filed by WTE Riverdate, LLC.
    • No one to asked to pull any consent items for discussion.
    • Quist moved to pass the consent agenda, and the motion was unanimously approved unanimously..
  • Director review and approval and initial study by Donald Miranda
    • Elliot Racusin
      • The request was approved last month. An appeal was filed with  the Planning Commission, which has the power of final approval. There were seven letters of support for the applicant.
      • Two extra letters of support have been written for the appeal which is why this is being brought to the commission.
      • The letters of support demonstrated that surrounding neighbors favored the applicant’s request because they believe the project will benefit the neighborhood as well as agriculture as a whole.
      • One appeal was filed. They raised concerns over safety, zoning and discrimination. The land is located in a predominantly agricultural area.
      • The truck storage will have a maximum of 15 trucks.
      • Four findings that need to be made for approval.
        • Whether or not the site is adequate
          • The site and roads have been considered adequate.
        • A traffic survey was considered unwarranted.
        • The project must not be a problem for surrounding property owners.
          • Nearby property owners are in favor of the project.
        • One person appealed the decision.
          • The appellant needs to be within a quarter-mile range of the project.
          • The current appellant is 1.36 miles northwest of the site.
          • Traffic is not anticipated to affect the road where the appellant lives.
      • Staff recommends the appeal be approved.
    • Commission comments
      • There was a lot of time focusing on letters of approval. Is there a reason for this?
        • Racusin states that this was done to help the process and to help locate everyone and how they’re affected.
      • The fact that the appellant lives more than a mile away shouldn’t be a reason to disregard their reason if it is valid.
      • Are they parking trucks at this time?
        • There was a violation that has been abated. They are coming back for proper permits now.
      • Racusin was asked to  explain the appeal  process and why it is needed.
        • Racusin stated that the county sends out two notices.
          • One notice of application
          • One notice of approval if approved
        • During that time there is a 15-day appeal process..
        • Typically appellants are within a quarter-mile radius.
        • Anyone that wants to file an appeal and received a notice has a right to do so.
      • Had an appellant contacted you the first go around would they have paid a $500 fee?
        • Yes.
        • The fee is only applicable  if a project is appealed.
      • There was mention of a violation. Can you expand on that?
        • Racusin
          • Typically with violations it is because they operate without permits.
          • There are different ways in which they could have caused a violation.
      • Was there any consideration for the impact of traffic going by Madison Elementary?
        • It was considered that this project would not impact nearby roads and residences.
    • Tony Bourne, brother-in-law of applicant Miranda, is present to represent the company.
      • If they’re within the notification radius are they required to pay the $500?
        • Yes.
      • Bourne is asked if it is possible for trucks to return after hours of operation.
        • Bourne said it is possible but that isn’t the regular practice.
      • Quist wants to know why there are 15 trucks but the operations say the number drivers vary from five to 20.
        • Bourne replied that the company needs to keep drivers around and account for driver turnover.
      • How long have the trucks been there?
        • Bourne said that it’s been a little over a year since they originally found out that they were in violation and began correcting the issue.
      • You don’t plan to fuel the trucks there?
        • Bourne clarified that the trucks are fueled in the lot.
      • Do you have a fuel tank on-site?
        • Bourne clarified that the site was a commercial site at one time. So there may be a fuel tank there but he will have to ask Miranda .
        • Normally a service comes to the site and fuels the trucks., he said. 
        • Are all of the trucks going to be used for agriculture?
        • Yes.
    • Rebecca Vivenzi, appellant
      • Vivenszi uses Brawley a lot for their farming business.
      • Vivenzi’s almond farm is just a mile away from this site. She said she is there to represent community members who fear public speaking and retaliation.
      • She suggested that a business clearing out a homeless encampment on the property received preferential treatment – that a farmer could not have done the same had they purchased the location.
      • The parking lot is zoned for agricultural exclusive for 20 acres.
      • Vivenzi said using the site for trucks is a hindrance to nearby small agricultural businesses. She said that it raises the cost of purchasing land for farming purposes.
      • Vivenzi pulled a CHP report from 2015-2023 that showed 211 accidents in the last eight years on the road from Brawley to Highway 180. A driver that was hit by a drunken driver on their way back to this parking lot.
      • Vivenzi requested that the operation clean up the land and make it usable for agricultural purposes.
    • It is asked if all of these accidents involve this one trucking company.
      • “You’re biting off a little piece of it but there is a much bigger picture.”
      • Vivenzi said her point regarding the number of accidents  is that there is already too much traffic on the street and no room for more.
    • One of the commissioners asked staff if there was any way to reimburse Vivenzi for her $500 fee.
      • There is no provision for that, staff said.
      • Cathi Scherer
      • Scherer’s family has lived near the site since 1996, and bought the property from Kerney Park.
      • Scherer said she has seen damage caused by the traffic on  Brawley. She said she has been on her way home from the grocery store and gotten caught in the traffic on Highway 180 and Brawley.
    • Tony Bourne
    • Bourne said they tried reaching out several times and suggested that the problem seems to be more of a macro issue than an issue with his brother-in-law’s company. He agreed that something should be brought up with the city and to enable systemic changes.
  • After a short break, Chatha left, leaving six remaining commissioners.
  • Environmental review filed by property owner Nick Sahota
    • Racusin
      • There were three variances that were considered in the past and all were approved.
      • The applicant doesn’t currently qualify for a new parcel. Therefore they want to create a new secondary parcel to be given to their family.
      • For a parcel to be created, four findings must be met:
        • Has to be a unique circumstance. Looking at the physical circumstances of the land:
          • The land is flat and is not unique from surrounding properties.
          • There are no extra property rights that are created with the parcel.
          • The staff believes it would be creating a special privilege for Sahota.
          • Granting the request would be contrary to the general plan that requires parcels to be 60 acres.
        • The original parcel split happened in the 1990s.
        • The property was originally up to 20 acres in size.
    • Elvia Lopez, Central Valley Engineering, on behalf of Sahota
      • The original property owner kept a small portion of the property and sold the rest to Sahota.
    • Rosemary Cordero
      • When Cordero first moved to Fowler Avenue they originally put up a mobile home but it was replaced when they built their house.
      • Cordero pointed out her parcel on a map. She said she is not sure why there are separate parcels except that the bank wanted the parcels to be separated when they bought the property.
      • The parcel number is not written on the map but Cordero knows it exists because she pays taxes on it.
    • Staff suggested that the request be denied because some of the claims can’t be substantiated.
    • For this to be approved these findings need to be shown.
      • Lopez states that it did get previously approved to split off. So in the area, there are already other examples of smaller parcels.
      • For the farmers to continue their business they would like to parcel out 2 acres.
      • Lopez’s client is now retired and her original plan was to separate a parcel of her property to give to her daughter so that her daughter can take over the farming.
      • The general plan for the zoning will not change. They are not trying to park trucks but will continue farming on the property.

Actions/discussion/public comment

  • Public presentations.
    • There were no public presentations.
  • Director review and approval for Miranda
    • Motion by Woolf to approve the request with the condition that trucks stay off Brawley and around Madison Elementary School.
    • Motion carried 7-0.
  • Environmental review by Sahota.
    • A motion was made by Arabian to go with the staff recommendation to deny the proposal.
    • Motion carried 7-0.

Conversation highlight

  • “We’ve seen the damages going down on Brawley. I live where I can see the school. I have been in the process of trying to get home from work or from the grocery store and stopped at 180 and the signal and had traffic backed up from Brawley,” said Cathi Scherer, community member, retired.

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The Fresno Documenters are a group of local residents who are trained and paid to attend and take notes at local public meetings where officials decide how to spend public money and make important decisions...