Labor unions oppose industrial annexation projects

Carpenter, construction worker unions ask for full environmental reviews of projects including a public process where they can argue the benefits of a local workforce

VISALIA – Nearly 3 million square feet of industrial warehouses are planned for northwest Visalia but are being opposed by labor unions wanting to make sure they are included in the construction.

At its May 20 meeting, the Visalia City Council approved the annexation of 75 acres at Shirk Road and Riggin Avenue with a mitigated negative declaration, a low-level environmental review. The industrial zoned property received opposition letters from labor unions who have a history of challenging such projects, seeking to get agreements with the developers to contract with their members for construction.

Instead of a negative declaration, Carpenters Union Local 1109 argued the city should do a full environmental impact report (EIR) to ensure the project uses a local workforce. This would cut down on vehicle miles traveled and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the construction of the project.

“The City should consider utilizing local workforce policies and requirements to benefit the local area economically and to mitigate greenhouse gas, improve air quality, and reduce transportation impacts,” the Carpenters Union wrote.

The site at the southwest corner of Riggin and Shirk may hold nearly 1,000,000 square feet of industrial buildings proposed by YS Industries. Approval by the city should mean the project moves to annexation quickly.

A 12-page letter received from the attorney for the Golden State Environmental Justice Alliance based in Corona, Calif. said, “A project EIR must be prepared that accurately represents the whole of the action without piecemealing the project into separate, smaller development projects to present unduly low environmental impacts.”

The same firm filed a lawsuit March 1 in Fresno against a $100 million industrial project there. The Carpenters Union also sent a letter supporting a full EIR.

The city believes they have properly followed CEQA rules. The city council approved the project 4-1 with Councilmember Emmanuel Soto agreeing that the project should have its own EIR.

The second industrial project that will require annexation was heard at the May 15 Site Plan Review and also received a comment letter from a labor union. The Etchegaray Industrial site proposed at the southeast corner of Kelsey Street and Hurley Avenue would build 1.79 million square feet of buildings near Highway 198.

Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local 294, and its members living and working in and around Visalia write they believe that the “City’s failure to conduct any environmental review for the Project violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).” LIUNA members do construction work such as pouring concrete, laying asphalt, installing storm drains and water mains, working on bridges and driving tunnels.

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South Mooney to get new hotel

Most of Visalia’s hotel rooms are located along the Highway 198 corridor but a new hotel is being planned at the southern entrance to Visalia.

A 109-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel has been approved in the Oaks shopping center on South Mooney Boulevard. The center is currently anchored by Aldi Foods. The proposed project entails the development of the hotel on a 2.43 acre parcel within the City of Visalia.

The zoning is regional commercial but the hotel is now a conditionally allowed use within this zone. The primary use of the hotel would be to provide accommodation for tourists and travelers visiting the City of Visalia. The project proposes several amenities including a 700 square feet meeting room, a 400 square feet bistro + bar within the hotel complex that would offer guests a convenient and comfortable dining option. Additionally, the hotel will include a sundry shop, fitness center, swimming pool, and laundry room for guest use.

Development plans look west at Shirk and 198

 Developer Lee Kolligian of Fresno is looking west along Highway 198 to build more homes reaching Shirk on the south side of the highway. The latest plan reviewed at a Site Plan meeting involves the annexation of 76.46 acres and proposes a Tentative Subdivision Map to create 56 single-family residential units. The site is just west of a planned new Central Valley Christian (CVC) sports complex and other developments that are also awaiting annexation.

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