By Fred Ruiz and Bill Travis
Sequoia Gateway, the project proposed for the southeast corner of Caldwell Avenue and Highway 99, has been blessed by the Tulare County Planning Commission and approved by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.
Many were singing the praises of the proposed tenants in the project, including new hotels, restaurants and, of course, the Valley Children’s Pediatric Medical Clinic.
Much of the support from the key decision-making bodies is a reflection of the fact that this this project has been in reviewed, revised, analyzed and scrutinized for almost a decade, and it includes a wealth of environmentally progressive features.
Sequoia Gateway is actually going to contribute to a healthier environment in a number of ways:
• The commercial/retail use of the land is projected to use less than one quarter of the groundwater now used by the project site—95 acre feet of water per year versus 386 acre feet of water for agricultural use
• This reduction in use will free up groundwater resources for other ag uses
• The project will offer a variety of environmentally friendly features, including electric charging stations; low water use landscaping; capture or elimination of wasteful water run-off; bus stops and bike paths; and it will be the first commercial project to use recycled water for landscape irrigation.
• The project will also include mandatory solar photovoltaic panels on the project’s larger buildings, and dozens of other features recommended (but not required) by the local air pollution control district.
The County’s General Plan has allowed for a project like this for nearly a decade and the entire County will benefit from the generation of new revenue.
Whether you live in the unincorporated areas of Tulare County or an incorporated city, the shortage of County funds impacts us all. The jails, the court system, the roads, the county bridges and water delivery systems … they’re all funded through the County.
At buildout, Sequoia Gateway is estimated to also provide $17.6 million per year to some of our most critical local agencies, including $200,500 per year to COS, $1.2 million per year to Visalia Unified School District, $1.75 million per year to Measure R for road improvements and $8.1 million to other local agencies.
Sequoia Gateway won’t solve the ongoing financial challenges. Even after the completion of the Sequoia Gateway project, the County’s share of countywide sales taxes would only increase to 18.2 percent to support the County’s 30.3 percent share of the population—but it’s a step in the right direction.
We care about the families, farms and future of Tulare County and we look forward to the positive impact of Sequoia Gateway.
Fred Ruiz and Bill Travis are owners of the Sequoia Gateway property.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writers and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.