Only three members of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors attended their July 29th meeting, so the decision was made to delay a vote on the proposed Elderwood Heights development until their August 12th meeting in Tulare.
The full board was in attendance at the August 12th meeting, where they decided to continue the matter until their September 23rd meeting. Neither the developers nor the area residents opposed to the project were happy about the latest continuance, which was announced by Supervisor Phil Cox before the board heard public comment on the issue, and before the vote to continue was taken.
Elderwood Heights is a proposed 162-home development that would be built just west of the City of Woodlake on land that is currently being farmed. Some project opponents had the opinion that its developers requested the latest delay.
“What this tells me is that the project proposer is going to lose this vote,” said an angry Craig Breon, the attorney for Citizens Against Elderwood Heights Subdivision. “I cost a lot less than other attorneys, but if you’re going to delay this, you should make it a condition that (developer) Mr. Roberts is going to pay me.”
Roberts denied after the meeting that he sought the delay. “It was not a victory,” he said.
Several other project opponents addressed the board with their concerns about water usage and increased traffic if the planning commission’s decision against the project is overruled.
“All we’re asking you as supervisors is to put yourself in our position as a home owner,” said area resident Robert Pearcy. “I don’t think you’d like it any more than we do.”
Developer David Roberts then presented arguments for the project.
“The (residential) zoning was put there in the ’70s and we bought (the property) in the ’80s with an eye on doing this when the time was right,” he said, adding that if the community was concerned about water usage, they should prefer the development because the property would require less water than if it was fully farmed.
“Woodlake needs a project like this,” Roberts continued. “I talked to merchants. This community needs this sort of development. It needs a stronger economic base.”
Following Roberts’ comments, Supervisor Steve Worthley moved to continue the hearing on September 23rd. The motion was seconded by Supervisor Allen Ishida. The vote was 4-1 to postpone the discussion.
“We were floored,” said area resident Lauri Segrue-Polly after the meeting. “We were all disappointed. (The project has) been denied repeatedly. It’s been unanimously denied by the planning commission. Their studies are old. They never did an EIR (economic impact report).”
“I really wanted to speak to them about their process,” said Jim Gorden of Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth. “(The board of supervisors) should have sent it back to the planning commission.”
“When I’m ready to vote, I want to vote,” said Supervisor Cox, the lone dissenter in the vote to postpone the decision, after the meeting. “Let’s get it done.”
So why did supervisors again delay a decision on Elderwood Heights?
“We don’t view it as a delay,” said Michael Spata, assistant director of the Tulare County Resource Management Agency’s planning branch. “We view it as an opportunity to meet with the developer and the community to see if we can try to resolve the matter both amicably and effectively.
“I understand the sentiments of the developer, the community and the elected official, however, we do not view this as a needless delay,” he continued. “It’s necessary to explore all opportunities to see if an effective resolution can occur. Whenever you have a challenge, you have an opportunity to see if both sides can reach common ground.”