HEAT Wins First Round Against the City of Hanford

Hanford Environmental Action Team (HEAT) won its case against the City of Hanford concerning the Bajun American Properties housing development. HEAT appealed the city’s decision to approve the development’s site plans without an Environmental Impact Review (EIR). The judge decided in a September 22 hearing that HEAT would be given 10 more days from the issuance of the court’s ruling to appeal the city’s decision.

The city’s administrator, Melody Haigh, signed-off on the developer’s application on June 1, indicating that the city’s general plan did not require an EIR on the project. Haigh then publically filed the approved site plan and notified HEAT’s lawyer, Richard Harriman, on June 2. HEAT filed their appeal and paid a $1,000 fee on June 12 but Hanford City Attorney Ty Mizote, said they were a day late as the opportunity to appeal had closed on June 11.

The court agreed with HEAT that their appeal and fee should have been accepted by the City of Hanford and ordered a redo.

Bajun American Properties plans on building a two-story, 216-unit complex on the corner of Centennial Dr. and Millennium Way. The empty land is zoned as medium density residential. Back in June, city staff decided that “the proposed project will not have a significant effect on the environment since the project is to be located in an already urbanized area.”

That is debatably true and false. The apartment complex is within a half mile of Lowe’s and is zoned as residential. But it is also surrounded by vacant land and sits on the banks of Mussel Slough. The proposed future housing complex will sit where a section of Mussel Slough was unlawfully filled-in by Paynter Realty and Investments in 2007.

Paynter Realty and Investments was in the process of developing the Lowe’s shopping complex when they filled-in the slough remnant. Late in 2007, HEAT sued the City of Hanford and Mizote for filling-in the slough and won their case. The developer had to pay the environmental group’s lawyer fees and had to mitigate for the environmental damage caused. The city had to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with HEAT outlining conditions aimed at preventing this from ever happening again.

It is HEAT’s position that an EIR must be done before building is to start on the Bajun American Properties housing complex. This could be even more urgent in light of the fact that more and more of Mussell Slough is illegally being filled-in. A letter from Harriman was sent to remind Darlene Mata, Hanford community development director, that not completing a focused EIR is in violation of the MOU signed between the city and HEAT in 2007. The MOU stated that not only should HEAT have been notified that a site review plan application had been submitted, which they were not, but that any development inside the litigated area must go through the EIR process.

It is HEAT’s opinion that approving an apartment complex that sits on the banks of a natural waterway surrounded by agriculture land on three sides without an EIR defies common sense.

Sometime between March and May of this year, despite all efforts to prevent it from happening, the second section of the slough remnant was filled-in by an unknown group. The only evidence left behind was a backhoe and a missing slough. The filled-in slough remnant sits directly west of the proposed housing complex.

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