The Hanford Planning Commission rejected a staff and council recommendation to approve zoning changes such as optometry, medical, and dental offices to operate at 12th and Lacey Boulevard and the Costco development at Highway 43.
By a 3-0 vote on Tuesday, with one abstention, the commission approved a motion to have a citizens’ group, the planning commission, and the city council, analyze the fiscal and regulatory aspects of the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance and how they would conform to the city’s General Plan. The General Plan is the city’s guide to local development.
Commissioners Martin Devin, Richard Douglas and Travis Paden voted in favor of the motion. Chairman Jacob Sanchez, an administrative assistant for the Hanford Chamber of Commerce, abstained from the vote because the chamber had made statements in favor of changing the zoning at the locations.
The city council at its August 8 meeting gave the staff direction to ask the planning commission to review and consider changing the zoning to the Regional Commercial zone. In essence, planning commissioners said thirty years ago when Hanford Mall opened at 12th and Lacey the community changed their zoning ordinance to protect downtown business. The zoning did not allow certain uses at 12th and Lacey. This was before the Costco Center had not been developed.
The planning commission’s decision is only advisory and could be overturned or changed by the council when the item is reviewed again.
Considering the condition of Hanford’s downtown questions persists if the 30 year old ordinance to protect the district has worked.
Dan Chin, former Hanford mayor, spoke against changing the zoning at 12th and Lacy and Costco development during the public comment period on Tuesday. He said the changes would give competition to downtown businesses and reduce sales tax revenues from those entities. This could result, he said, in the city having to invest millions of dollars in downtown to save it.
“If the changes are approved, they will reduce the amount of land producing sales tax,” Chin said. Former council member David Ayers also supported Chin’s position.
Two downtown optometrists also spoke against the proposed changes.
In 2019 there was a proposal to expand medical, dental, optometry and office uses in the Regional Commercial zone which includes the Costco center but was turned down by the city council. The reason this was turned down then is the city was trying to promote retail sales — not medical or office uses — in the Regional Commercial zone, said David Ayers, who was a city council member in 2019.
Promotion of retail sales is important to the city because the sales tax on retail sales and property tax are primarily what funds the city’s day-to-day operations known as the General Fund.
Edward Kashian, the developer of the Costco project at Highway 43 and 198, did not return a call seeking comment. Gabriel Myers, senior Hanford city planner, said she was not aware of a developer pushing the latest changes.
The additional services would have helped the Costco Center financially in 2019 by attracting new types of customers that use these services.
Currently Costco has hearing aid, eyeglass, and contact lenses sales, but no exams can be performed, said Myers.
Another part of the council and staff recommendation would eliminate restrictions on how big furniture stores can be at the two locations. Currently, only a limited amount of furniture can be sold at the two commercial locations but furniture stores of any size are allowed downtown.
Another change to the ordinance proposed would allow medical laboratories at the two locations if the applicant got a conditional use permit from the city, according to the staff report. Also, secondary branches of banks, credit unions and payday lenders were proposed at the two locations if the applicant got a General Plan Amendment, according to the staff report.
A General Plan Amendment is a major undertaking. Only four are allowed per year. Another proposal would allow food trucks at the two locations.