Planned Parenthood’s hopes for a medical office on Mooney Boulevard will be the subject of a public hearing at the Visalia City Council meeting on February 7 at 7pm.
Although the city’s planning commission voted to approve a Conditional Use Permit for the location at 3221 S. Mooney – next to Aspen Dental – developer David Paynter of Paynter Realty and Investments has filed an appeal, citing concerns over parking space availability.
He is the owner of properties surrounding the potential office, including buildings housing Bed Bath and Beyond, Marshall’s and the Sequoia Mall.
The hearing was originally scheduled for January 18, but Paynter requested it be rescheduled to the 7th as some members would be absent on the 18th.
The Visalia Planning Commission voted to approve the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a medical office at 3221 S. Mooney on December 13, 2021. The site plan was submitted by associate Matt Nohr of the Orosco Group; the Orosco Group owns the building.
The Mooney building is split into three equal suites: A, which is currently occupied by Aspen Dental; and suites B and C. Planned Parenthood would occupy the other two suites if the planning commission’s approval is upheld.
While Paynter is mainly concerned over parking space availability, he also mentioned that protesters could be attracted to the location, potentially causing shoppers to avoid other businesses in the surrounding buildings.
“Our concern is that the typical demonstrations which occur outside of Planned Parenthood will be significantly harmful to both Marshalls and Bed Bath and Beyond as well as to the current and future businesses located at the Sequoia Mall,” Paynter stated in a letter to the planning commission.
In an ironic twist, if approved, Hobby Lobby would be kitty-corner to the Planned Parenthood site; the company’s owner is an Evangelical Christian and has attracted national attention to his anti-abortion and anti-birth control stances.
Upon news of the hearing, Tulare-Kings Right to Life sent out an “Urgent” email blast before the originally-scheduled January 18 hearing, asking for support in voting down the project but requesting no protesting or picketing.
“Tulare-Kings Right to Life has been notified of proposed plans for Planned Parenthood to purchase a building on Mooney Blvd near Hobby Lobby and Bed Bath and Beyond in Visalia. We are asking for support in voicing opposition at the next Visalia City Council Meeting…. We ask that there be no protesting or picketing. This meeting is open to the public and the voices of our local community need to be heard,” the email states.
Planned Parenthood would not purchase its spaces, but would instead lease spaces from the Orosco Group. A follow-up email blast stated that the January 18 meeting was postponed “due to COVID related issues” – the meeting was still held, but without the public hearing.
The organization held a Zoom conference with stakeholders this week in order to strategize on possible next steps to oppose the Planned Parenthood location and declined to comment to the Voice on any potential plans.
Paynter says he requested the public hearing be moved after he was advised that only four city council members would be present at the January 18 meeting.
“When you only have 4 council members it gets tricky,” he said. If one of them can’t make the meeting, there would only be three members – and you can’t overturn a conditional use permit on a 2-1 vote, he said: it would have to be a 3-0 vote.
Councilmember Brian Poochigian confirmed that, in fact, two city council members were absent – but that an appeal could pass with a 2-1 vote.
Planned Parenthood’s current location, close to downtown Visalia, is only about 1500 square feet, according to staff working there.
Staff members told the Voice they were looking forward to moving into the larger facility on Mooney and were unaware that the decision was being appealed.
Parking’s the issue – not the tenant
The issue of whether a Planned Parenthood can move into 3221 S. Mooney may be moot.
The bigger issue says Paynter is the parking situation and the impact it will have on retail sales of the surrounding businesses.
Rafael Garcia, Senior Planner for the City of Visalia, said that who the tenants are do not factor into the commission’s decision. Garcia said that the commission makes sure that the intended use of the building is appropriate for the region, complies with the general plan, and complies with Visalia’s zoning ordinance.
The Visalia City Planning Commission concluded that a medical office conformed to the city’s criteria.
The zoning for the building is Regional Commercial (C-R), and medical offices are a permissible use in C-R zones. The only requirement is that they obtain a Conditional Use Permit from the planning commission.
Garcia, said the site plan submitted to the commission complies with the required number of parking stalls for a medical office.
“They are following the rules,” said Garcia.
But Paynter disagrees.
Paynter’s appeal states that the applicant for the CUP “restriped the main ingress/regress drive off Mooney Boulevard to create additional new stalls.”
“They really aren’t even legitimate parking spaces,” said Paynter.
“A medical clinic requires extended parking time for its clientele which will be detrimental to the surrounding retail. Coupled with the existing Aspen Dental, the amount of medical parking spaces which will be used within the shopping center will be significantly harmful to the retail taxable sales and ongoing success of the Marshalls and Bed Bath and Beyond stores.”
The impact to retail sales, he said, will reduce the amount of taxable income to the city of Visalia.
On inspection of the building at 3221 S. Mooney the Voice saw only three or four spaces available. Aspen Dental, which takes up only one third of the building, seemingly used up almost the entire parking lot.
Orosco Group’s Operational Statement to the planning department says, “this (medical) facility will have 10 full-time employees. The operating hours for the medical office will be from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. The office will have two physicians onsite daily, and it is expected to receive as many as 40 patients per day.”
For possible parking overflow the Orosco Group said they could “provide an additional 10 parking spaces via a proposed parking agreement with the former Ryan’s Place right next door.”
A new pizza parlor is already in the works to take over Ryan’s Place, which is also owned by the Orosco Group.
City planners concluded that the new pizza parlor will have the required number of parking spaces even if ten spaces are used by Planned Parenthood.
But there are large obstacles between the medical office and the future pizza parlor.
A large hedge along the side of the restaurant and an entrance and exit road to Mooney Boulevard separate the Orosco Group’s allotted ten parking spaces and the medical office, making it very unlikely Aspen Dental or Planned Parenthood clients would seriously consider parking there.
Once the pizza parlor opens, overflow of the restaurant and Planned Parenthood will presumably go into the adjacent Bed Bath and Beyond and Marshalls parking lot.
“The more likely location for the medical parking will be west of the medical clinic in the Marshalls/Bed Bath and Beyond parking lot” said Paynter’s appeal.
The Orosco Group did not return multiple requests from the Voice for comment.
The February 7, 2022 Visalia City Council meeting will be held in their chambers at 707 W. Acequia. Overflow will be directed to watch the meeting on monitors outside the chambers or participate remotely.