Lindsay group counters Dollar General plan

An attorney, a historian and an environmental researcher have teamed up in Lindsay to save a historic building they say Lindsay City Hall has dismissed as not significant.

The Lindsay City Council will again discuss the Central California Citrus Exchange building at the southwest corner of Mirage Avenue and Hermosa Street at its next meeting on Tuesday, April 9. Developer Embree Asset Group is requesting to demolish the building to make way for a 9,100-square foot Dollar General, a national discount retailer that is rapidly expanding throughout small towns in the Central Valley.

The City Council voted unanimously to delay the site plan review for Dollar General after several people spoke about the historical significance of the building at the Feb. 26 Council meeting. The Site Plan was scheduled for a vote on March 12 but was postponed again after a group of Lindsay residents presented additional information about the environmental impact and historical significance of the project.

Attorney Richard Harriman, representing Lindsay Advocates for Responsive Government (LARGo), submitted a letter dated March 11 requesting the City Council deny the Site Plan Review and reject Dollar General’s plan to demolish the CCCE building because “Staff has provided erroneous information (which is not substantial evidence) to your Council and has intentionally omitted material factual information, regarding a number of issues that are relevant and necessary for your Council to consider during your deliberations and exercise of your discretion whether or not to approve the proposed “Dollar General” Project, as presented to your Council. “

Harriman wrote that the Council should not make any decision on the project until the issues are resolved. The issues listed were inaccurate air quality designation, failure to analyze hazardous materials emissions from the demolition of the building, failure to consider traffic safety hazards, an outdated General Plan and accompanying environmental impact report, possible impacts to an adjacent historical building in the old Lindsay Hospital and inaccurate information regarding the historical significance of the building.

“For the foregoing reasons and based on the analysis presented above, my clients and I respectfully urge you to deny the Application for Site Plan Review No. 13-04;adopt Findings to support your denial of the Application; expressly direct Staff not to issue a demolition, grading, or building permit for the General Dollar project; and remand the environmental and administrative review to City Staff with direction to require Applicant to retain at independent consultant to prepare an accurate Historic Preservation Survey and remedy the other defects in the environmental and General Plan review documents and to commence an update of the City General Plan,” Harriman’s letter concluded.

Harriman also represents Lindsay resident Trudy Wischemann, who did her own historical study of the CCCE building. Wischemann, who has a master’s degree in Environmental Planning from University of California-Berkeley, conducted a study which questioned the 46-page inspection report by Valley Wide Home Inspections presented to the Lindsay City Council at the Feb. 26 and March 12 meetings.

Wischemann stated there are no dollar figures given for repairs, contrary to the staff statements that it would be too costly to repair. Wischemann writes that most of the damages consist of cracks in the sidewalks, pavement, stucco and plaster, difficult windows to open, plumbing overdue for replacement, upgrading of the electrical system required, ADA-compliant solutions needed, water damage from leaks.

“In a building almost 80 years old, it is not surprising to find these things,” she stated. “They are the same things the Cultural Arts Committee faced when they took over the old library (the same age as the Exchange Building) for their museum, but because much of the work has been done with volunteer labor, the costs have not been prohibitive to creating a valued public space.”

Wischemann also points out there are no streets designated as truck routes to give access to the Dollar General store by their delivery trucks, which the company has stated are 53-feet trailers pulled by 20-foot semis. She said the Site Plan shows trucks entering downtown south on Mirage, turning left across traffic onto Valencia going west, which curves into Elmwood, and then proceed northward.

“There is no other feasible route other than the truck route indicated from northbound Hwy 65 at Lindsay Blvd., making a left onto Lindcove, then another left onto Mirage and completing the pathway described above,” she wrote.

Wischemann stated there were no alternative sites listed in the materials presented to council Feb. 26, 2013. However, a public records request made by Mr. Harriman revealed a list of nine sites. Chief among those sites was the former Lindsay Foods site, which several residents have suggested as a good location for the project.

Chris Brewer, Tulare County historian and curator of the Exeter Historical Museum, also wrote a letter addressing the historical significance of the building. Brewer said there was “a good chance of getting a determination of eligibility or submitting a successful nomination to the National Register for the old Citrus Exchange building.” He said, in his opinion, the building qualified for the National Register of Historic Places on three separate criteria.

Brewer said the building is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past. The Citrus Exchange building is a representative work of a master architect, William Ache, who designed several significant buildings already listed on the National Register, including the Palisades Wing of the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.

He was best-known for the design of citrus packing houses, as he designed 60 packing houses throughout the Southwest including at Indio, and Santa Barbara and Lindsay, where Ache also designed the United Methodist Church, adjacent to City Hall. Ache is registered on the list of Local Master Architects by the City of Beverly Hills, being the first one on the list, and designed numerous other notable buildings and structures throughout southern California.

Brewer went on to state the building embodies the distinctive characteristics of the late Mission Revival era, citing Ache’s “unique use of Moorish influences in its tower and other feathers.” More importantly, Brewer said the building meets the first criteria for “Properties that are associated with events that have made significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. Brewer said the history of the Citrus Exchange and the development of the citrus industry in Lindsay and California are well represented in the property

“This property was perhaps the single most important building for the citrus industry in Tulare County during the 1930s through 1960s,” Brewer stated.

In his letter, Brewer questioned the accuracy and truthfulness of the City’s historical analysis, saying the staff does not have the adequate background or training to make determinations of historic properties. Brewer suggested the City contract a professional architectural historian, certified by one of the state’s regional centers or by any of a number of state or federal agencies, to evaluate the building in a professional manner..

“I find significant fault with the document prepared by the city,” Brewer wrote. “Its flaws indicate that the office either has very little knowledge of the CEQA process and the regulations, or had another motive in creating such an erroneous document.”

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