By Trudy Wischemann
Well, folks, it looks like we’re going to have a roundabout at Hermosa and Westwood, no matter what. No matter that 800+ people signed a petition against it back in January, no matter that a study of what might be done at Lincoln School to reduce traffic congestion has not yet been completed. No matter that anyone in town who hears about the proposal says “What? Not again!”
At the last city council meeting on April 24, I filed a complaint called a “cure and correct” notice about the public hearing on April 10 when the project was approved. The public hearing had not been identified as such on the council agenda, which was simply noted as a “site plan review.” For those with long years of experience fighting development projects and surreptitious planning departments, that might have been a red flag. But for members of the general public, the word “review” sounds like just another discussion.
In my complaint I claimed there had not been proper public notice. Technically I was mistaken. I missed the notice published March 24 in the Porterville Recorder, which I don’t subscribe to or read, and I missed the copy of that legal notice in the agenda packet as well. The city met the minimum legal requirement of notice, but whether or not the spirit of the law has been met is another matter.
At the April 10 meeting, we didn’t get a public hearing, we got a kangaroo court. The city manager did not offer an apology or explanation of why the item hadn’t been identified as a public hearing on the agenda. He simply jumped up from his chair, declared that it was a public hearing, took over the discussion of the site plan review from Brian Spaunhurst, the assistant city planner who was scheduled to present it, and then raced through the discussion like it was a done deal. And when it was followed by no discussion from the council whatsoever, it clearly was.
During the public hearing, where I was the only one present to speak either for or against the project, I pointed out that no other member of the public was there. Not one of the people who signed the petition, not one of the property owners who will be impacted, not one of the parents of Lincoln School students who are concerned about how their children will be escorted safely through the crosswalks of a traffic device intended to keep cars and trucks from having to stop. Not one. When I called one of the organizers to find out why no one showed, she said no, she hadn’t seen the notice, either, but she hadn’t been able to attend more meetings, and figured they were going to do what they wanted anyway. And of course, she was right.
There’s a lack of integrity in the planning process in Lindsay. If we had a planning commission like every other little town in this region, there would be more time for public input and education about what they’re trying to build here with public funds. But without that forum, it’s even more important that the public planning process is done right, in the spirit as well as the letter of the law mandating that process. Let us begin with a reconsideration of the Hermosa/Westwood roundabout.
Trudy Wischemann is a former student of environmental planning who lives appalled in Lindsay. You can send her your ideas for improvement c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.