Commission OKs Southwest plan

By C.J. Barbre

There were two scheduled matters for the consideration of the Exeter Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, Dec. 15. But first came an appeal by Peter Hickey to reconsider plans for a proposed truck route on Elberta Road between Visalia Road and Glaze Avenue.

&#8220Visalia Road is a truck route up to G Street. If you follow it to its conclusion, it comes out on Glaze into the industrial park,” Hickey told the Commission. &#8220If you look at the radius of the turn by Pump House Park, it has a good radius.” It is an arcing turn rather than an L-shaped corner. His argument was that trucks destined for the industrial park would be better served using an easy corner on which to turn and driving through what is already predominantly a light industry area instead of using either Belmont Avenue, which is currently a truck route, or Elberta, the proposed new truck route, both of which will be in residential areas once the Southwest Exeter Specific Plan becomes reality.

City Planner Greg Collins informed the Planning Commission that a couple of changes had been made since the previous meeting on Nov. 17. Public comment was closed at this meeting although a dozen citizens were on hand to keep track of changes. Collins started by agreeing that keeping the truck route on G Street was a good idea. The 10-year planning line halving the 20-year project had been divided by a north-south five-year line that zigs and zags.

&#8220We want to get some streets in in the first phase for a circular driving pattern,” Collins explained. He said there would be good north-south traffic movement and east-west on a portion of Powell Avenue and three quarters of Chestnut Avenue. There will be a commercial road behind Burger King.

&#8220You will note there are two parks in the five-year plan.” Collins informed the commission that the parks also serve as storm drainage.

He pointed to the school site where he said there were &#8220some minor modifications.” A bank of lots were drawn in that would provide estate type homes on the east side of the school along Jacobs Place Boulevard.

Commissioner Davis was extremely concerned that the school site would have all of its drop-off and pick-up of students along the narrow strip on Chestnut Avenue. &#8220I kind of envisioned pick-up along the boulevard. I think that's a mess waiting to happen.”

&#8220I agree,” Collins said. &#8220Scratch the school-front lots.”

Commissioner Smith-Petty expressed alarm at growth &#8220happening too fast.”

Collins, who seemed to be about two-thirds therapist, commiserated that hers was a common concern, but reassured her that, &#8220Exeter has the best handle on growth we've ever seen.” He pointed out that the city hasn't leap-frogged development, that it is connecting streets and parks, and that there are &#8220probably only two more pieces available for growth.” One is a 40-acre parcel on the north west corner of the city that would have to be annexed and the other is already within the city limits.

&#8220We've tried to look at development in the past and lay out standards that correct problems before they develop,” Collins said. He said the Southwest Exeter Specific Plan will have unique parks, the city's first walking trail and first roundabouts. &#8220First and foremost these neighborhoods are designed to be very walkable, kid-safe and not as dependent on the car as some other neighborhoods.”

Davis agreed they were &#8220miles ahead” in controlling growth.

Zone Ordinance Amendment for residential antique business

At the urging of Planning Commission Chairman Ray Guillen to stick to the agenda, they moved forward to the public hearing on Zone Ordinance Amendment 05-05, a request by Karen Webster to sell antiques from her home.

City Planner Greg Collins said currently the only conditional use allowed in Exeter is for Bed & Breakfast businesses in residential areas. &#8220But you're not permitted to sell any kind of goods or services from your house.” He said the exception is a Home Occupation Permit where say a graphic designer could build websites or a contractor could receive business calls. &#8220But the neighbors don't know the business exists,” he said regarding any impact on the neighborhood. Collins said if the commission did decide that selling antiques from a residence was allowable, it should be on a conditional use, case-by-case basis, then they could specify the hours of operation, signage, lighting, etc.

&#8220You could argue that it stimulates the local economy,” he said. But he said the problem is, what is the definition of a genuine antique, and where does it change to &#8220vintage items” and &#8220collectibles?”

Webster informed the commission that caring for her elderly mother and grandchildren was the basis of her request. She said she would only be open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday when her neighbors were often out of town. The Exeter native said there have in fact been other residential businesses including two florists and one antique store.

Asked her definition of an antique, she hedged. &#8220I have a little bit of everything,” she said. &#8220The 1950s and 1970s stuff is real hot; gold from Italy is really popular. I have things that are 100 years old.”

Webster said she has 35 years in the business, has done shows from San Francisco to Hollywood and been on buying trips from coast to coast.

Wikipedia defines an antique as, &#8220An item which is at least 75 years old and is collected or desirable due to rarity, condition, utility, or some other unique feature.” But the second definition is much broader. &#8220In a consumer society an antique is above all an object whose atypical construction and age give it a market value superior to similar objects of recent manufacture,” which becomes somewhat subjective.

Commissioner and vice-chair Jon Johnston was not convinced. He made a motion to deny the request and was seconded by Guillen. But commissioners Bill Davis and Julie Smith-Petty voted in favor of amending Zoning Ordinance 05-05, bringing in a tie vote. New commissioner Joe Stewart has not officially been sworn in yet.

Webster has 10 days to file an appeal after which the matter will go before the city council.

Low Cost Housing

Commissioner Jon Johnston bemoaned mega home construction such as 3,500 home subdivisions to be found in the southland. &#8220Clovis used to be a nice place to go,” he added.

But Smith-Petty said they have already grown from 6,200 in the early 1960s to 9,000 today. ”I personally would like to see it stay like that,” she said.

&#8220Hopefully we're making the best possible decisions. Exeter is a good city to live in,” Chairman Guillen concluded before putting Resolution 05-22 to a vote. The commissioners were unanimous in their approval of the resolution with the aforementioned changes along with the statement that the cost of implementation of the plan will be recovered through the development process.

Residents are still free to submit comments to the City Planner.

There was one more concern to come before the commission before adjournment. Bill Whitlatch, proprietor of Whitlatch Realty of Visalia, informed the commission that he moved to the Valley in 1970 after growing up in Southern California.

&#8220I loved it and loved Visalia's ability to have mixed uses,” he said. &#8220We have people who are working poor, people who will never be able to afford housing. You ought to be able to set aside some land. I can tell you there are two and three families living in a house.” He urged them to allow some Self-Help construction where people invest &#8220sweat equity” along with the help of volunteers to be able to afford a home.

&#8220Before you adopt this, if you could get owners of land to set aside just a small amount.” Whitlatch said he spoke to Self Help and they responded ‘Exeter is a tough town for us to get affordable land.' He said this would not be new people but people who already clean their homes and pick their crops. &#8220People need a place to live,” he urged. &#8220If you could find a way, it would be a wonderful opportunity.”

Public notice will be made before the Southwest Exeter Specific Plan goes before the city council.

Start typing and press Enter to search