Longtime vacant parcel under Sequoia Drive-In marquee between Visalia and Farmersville is projected to have large business park developed


By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

TULARE COUNTY – Tulare County’s iconic Sequoia Drive-In marquee that peeks over Highway 198 between Visalia and Farmersville will be home to the new 358,370-square foot Sequoia Drive-In Business Park, if developers decide to keep it.

According to Associate Resource Management Agency (RMA) Director, Mike Washam, the development will take several years to build out, and there is currently no condition to keep the sign, although he has been encouraging they do.

“I believe it is still their intention to do that and make it a part of their plan There is no condition to require them to do that at this point…but I suggested and recommended that,” Washam noted.

Washam said it is not on a national registry of historical landmarks, nor is it in a local historical district.

District One Tulare County Board Supervisor Kuyler Crocker, whose district is home to the proposed business park, said there has been precedence to set conditions for developers to incorporate existing undesignated historical landmarks into new developments. He noted the selling and renovation of the former Tulare County courthouse as one instance at the County level. He said the County wanted to see the main architectural style of the building remain the same and tasked the developers with the stipulation.

Right now the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is under review and was published on Dec. 21. It will be brought down on Feb. 4 after all concerning agencies have an opportunity to comment on the project. A final EIR will address all the concerns or comments made by reviewing agencies. 

Washam added the report is projected to go before the planning commission sometime in March, but scheduling can push the project back weeks or sometimes months. 

The business park totaling 30 buildings split into 46 units is set to encompass almost 360,000 square feet and developed over four phases. 

• Phase 1: Will include a convenience market with gas pumps and an attached fast-food restaurant, along with five separate commercial buildings for a total combined square footage of 68,340. Direct access into the development will occur on Road 156 and will eventually connect access from Noble Avenue during Phase 3. 

• Phase 2: Will include the development of 14 commercial buildings for a total combined square footage of 88,000, leaving a remainder lot to accommodate the existing cellular communications tower. Two access points into the development will occur on Road 156, using a circle drive connection as part of Phase 1 and the entirety of Phases 2 and 4. 

• Phase 3: Will include ten separate commercial buildings with a total combined square footage of 104,000. One remaining lot will be developed into a stormwater retention ponding basin with the capacity to store water on-site in the event of extreme rainfall. 

• Phase 4: Will include 13 commercial buildings for a total square footage of 98,030. One remaining lot will be utilized as a second stormwater retention pond to ensure all stormwater runoff remains on-site.

A Commercial Owners Association (COA) will be established during Phase 1 of development. The COA will be responsible for maintenance of the landscaping, irrigation, domestic water system, roads, landscape, and lighting after initial construction in each phase. The infrastructural backbone for the proposed project will be constructed in Phase 1. The remaining phases will be constructed based upon the market for development and may not follow in consecutive order.

The on-site stormwater system will consist of drainage inlets and retention ponds and will be a low impact design. The development will be designed to slope towards the retention ponds and the majority of the stormwater will exist in the form of overland flow. Once the flow reaches the retention ponds, it will be collected by drainage inlets and piped into the retention ponds. The design will minimize the need for large quantities of drainage inlets and piping within the development area. The ponds will be constructed in proportion to the size of the development phasing and market demand and may be temporary basins until the ultimate buildout of the proposed project facilitates the need for ultimate facility buildout. Construction, maintenance, and operation of the stormwater conveyance system and retention ponds will be the responsibility of the COA.

Because the buildings are not hooked onto any type of existing city infrastructure the sewer system within the proposed Project will consist of on-site wastewater treatment. The wastewater will be treated with an Orenco AdvanTex Treatment System or engineer approved equivalent. 

This system provides secondary wastewater treatment by treating wastewater making it 98% cleaner preparing the effluent for reuse. Effluent from the treatment system will be treated with ultraviolet light to provide further disinfection so it meets the State of California’s treatment standards for reuse. Effluent will go to a leaching system or reuse for landscape irrigation, depending on market conditions and economics. The sewer system will provide wastewater service to the entire development and will be maintained and operated by the COA.

According to Castlewood LLC, the applicant for the development, there are several benefits to the project. Washam said, and the draft EIR notes, there may be between 225 to 250 jobs that come of the development after it is fully built. The EIR also says the development win increase commerce and business operations within the County. 

The EIR says the project is intended to provide for a mix of service commercial businesses along the State Route 198 corridor. The project will promote economic vitality and the development of commercial uses, which would increase the amount of tax base the County could receive from this project.

Like most projects developers are supporting the existing road network by making monetary contributions and/or physical improvements to assist in implementing the Complete Streets Program in the County of Tulare. The Project will also contribute to pedestrian pathways and bike routes in the County immediately east of the City of Visalia.

Crocker says the economic development in his district and the county as a whole is a positive sign. 

“The whole idea of us moving forward is exciting,” Crocker said.

He added the County is almost ready to release its Economic Development Report and Plan. Crocker said the report, in part, is intended to identify the tools the County has to work with so they can maximize tax revenue through various avenues.

“The idea is to figure out where we’re at. I asked to see what tools are available so we can get to where we want to go…so it isn’t going to just sit on the shelf,” Crocker said. 

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