Hanford residents have one last chance to make their voices heard concerning the Hanford General Plan.
Afinal Public Hearing will be during the city council meeting Tuesday, April 18, at 7pm in the council chambers.
The public hearing was originally scheduled for April 4, but Council Member Justin Mendes was unexpectedly unavailable to attend.
Even though there was a quorum, the remaining council members voted to move the public hearing to the next meeting. Because the General Plan update takes several years to complete and is one of the most consequential decisions made by a city council, the rest of the members felt that Mendes should be there for the final discussion and vote.
Nevertheless, it was a full house as the public was ready to discuss the General Plan during the April 4 meeting. Mayor David Ayers welcomed public comments but said that residents’ statements would not be officially recorded as part of the general plan debate until April 18.
Mark Pratter, an advocate of Hidden Valley Park, said that the delay was beneficial as it gave fellow advocates more time to get prepared. He anticipated a large number of people attending this Tuesday’s meeting who will speak during public comment in support of retaining the undeveloped 18 acres of Hidden Valley Park.
If the General Plan is approved, 18 acres of Hidden Valley Park will be zoned low-density residential and could be sold.
At the end of the April 4 meeting Mayor Ayers stipulated that if the public hearing goes past 10pm that the hearing be continued in 48 hours.
That would mean that the hearing would be scheduled to resume Thursday, April 20.
Hanford has not updated its general plan since 2002. The outdated plan has complicated city efforts to approve some developments such as the Bajun American Properties apartment complex along Centennial Dr. and Millennium Way.
The process to update the plan started in 2013 and has gone through revisions by the Citizens Advisory Committee and the Hanford Planning Commission.
The planning commission held two public hearings and during its final hearing on March 14 the residents voiced many of the same concerns about Hanford’s future they have over the years.
Shelly Johnson had concerns about the sweeping zoning changes that will negatively impact downtown.
Johnson is against the new zoning allowing furniture, and medical/dental/optometry offices to open most anywhere in the city. Johnson claimed that protective zoning does work.
Accordingto minutes from the March 14 public hearing, she said, “without zoning protections businesses will leave and will end up costing the City of Hanford due to vacant building and blight.”
Joann Doerter, Manager of Hanford Mall, told the planning commission that the mall currently has 80,000 vacant square feet and is experiencing a difficult time leasing it. Doeter approved of the new zoning, saying that the city of Hanford can’t afford to turn away business.
Doug McIssack, representing Hanford Environmental Awareness Team, addressed issues related to the preservation of Mussel Slough, wetlands and riparian corridors. He stated that the city’s policies are deficient as they relate to these waterways. Mclassack points out that the plan says that the city shall protect groundwater basins and sloughs but doesn’t state how it that action will be taken.
Richard Harriman, representing Hanford Environmental Awareness Team and San
Joaquin Valley Environmental Defense Center, said that he had reviewed all the recent general plans adopted in the Valley. According to the meeting minutes he said, “the primary problem with Hanford’s General Plan is that it is not a general plan for the 21st century.” Harriman requested that the city include a trails plan that shows pedestrian and bicycle trails that provide access to all parks and all amenities such as was done in Visalia. “We request that there be interconnectivity between the small parks.”
Mike Stoddard, Chairman of Parks and Recreation Commission, was concerned about the continual proposals to sell the 18 acres adjacent to the developed half of Hidden Valley Park. He wondered why the issue continues to come up and who keeps bringing it up. Stoddard said that taking away open space is the same as tearing down a building.
Rob Ramos said he walked the neighborhood surrounding the Hidden Valley Park and not one person wanted the city to sell the property. Ramos claims that the city manager wants to sell the park and people from out of town want to sell it, not people who live in town.
The city planners responded to the concerns about Hidden Valley Park. “The issue of the sale of the park is not a land use or zoning issue and is not part of the current discussion. The 18 acres are not currently developed as a park and are not designated as open space in the current General Plan Land Use Map or Zoning Map. The area is designated public facility. Policy O59 states that community parks shall be 10 to 20 acres in size, a community park, such as Hidden Valley Park, that is greater than 20 acres would not be consistent with the proposed policies, which is why the land adjacent has been identified as low density residential. ……The sale of the vacant acres west of Hidden Valley Park is not a land use issue. Any plans to develop the land would be required to undergo analysis for impacts to traffic.”
The General Plan includes goals, policies, maps, and tables that describe how Hanford plans to grow and develop from 2015 to 2035. It is projected that Hanford’s population will reach 90,000 during this time. If the council approves the plan, then two ordinance readings will happen over the next two council meetings. The General Plan would then be official after 30 days of the second ordinance reading.