HEAT Wins Second Round Against the City of Hanford

In the Kings County Superior Court, the Hanford Environmental Awareness Team (HEAT) racked up another win against the city concerning the Bajun American Properties housing development.

HEAT’s attorney, Richard Harriman, and HEAT member Robin Mattos were in attendance December 15 to hear Judge La Porte rule that City of Hanford was wrong when it did not accept HEAT’s appeal. Mattos claims she physically delivered the document and check, and the $1,000 fee to city hall within the required time frame but Darlene Mata, Community Development director, refused to accept it on the advice of Hanford’s lawyer Tim Mizote.

HEAT won its first case against the city on September 22 when the city failed to strike the case.

In the court’s tentative ruling it wrote, “The court finds that on the face of the pleadings, city staff abused its discretion in refusing to accept the appeal filed by petitioner on 6/12/15. The city agreed in its MOU that it would email notices to HEAT and to HEAT’s counsel. The city had every right to also give notice by certified mail, return receipt, but since email notice was agreed to by the parties, it was an abuse of discretion not to forward the documents by email, so that petitioners would have the full 10 days in which to prepare the appeal. The appeal tendered June 12, 2015 was filed within 10 days of service of notice and within 10 days of the signature on the Notice of Determination and the filing of the documents with the County Clerk. On the face of the pleadings, it was an abuse of discretion not to accept the appeal.”

The MOU in which the court referred, or Memorandum of Understanding, was worked out between HEAT and the city in 2007 to ensure that the city keep the environmental group informed of any proposed development over five acres in the Centennial Drive and Millennium Way region. The goal of HEAT is to make Hanford a walkable and bikable city and save what is left of Mussel Slough.

The case concerns a two-story, 216-unit complex on the corner of Centennial Drive 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.”

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 legally lost when Paynter Realty and Investments were building the Lowe’s shopping center.

It is HEAT’s position that an EIR must be done before building is to start on the Bajun American Properties housing complex. A letter from Harriman was sent to remind Darlene Mata, Hanford Community Development director when the development was first approved, 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 it was not, but that any development inside the litigated area must go through the EIR process.

Harriman said that now the city has to explain why they did not let HEAT file their appeal. The hearing where the city will be stating their case will be February 11, 2016.

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