By Reggie Ellis
visalia – The City of Visalia is about to get a little bigger. At its June 5 meeting, the Visalia City Council unanimously approved the annexation of a little more than 51 acres. The acreage was split between two annexations – 34.5 acres fronting Highway 198 at Roeben Street and Noble Avenue and 16.92 acres on K Road between Burke Street and Ben Maddox Way. The annexations would eliminate two county islands, or unincorporated land that is surrounded by property under the jurisdiction of the city.
Principle Planner Paul Scheibel said the county island on K Road is “the City’s only disadvantaged unincorporated community.”
Of the 16.92 acres, Scheibel said 12.2 acres of farmland is proposed for 65 residential lots, 3 acres is an existing home and ponding basin and another property owners has a 1.72-acre parcel with an existing home. The rest of the county island, 39 acres, will not be affected by the annexation. But most of the property owners in the county island are opposed to the project. Scheibel said 121 surveys were mailed out to all of the property owners in an effort to try and eliminate the entire county island. Only 13 surveys came back, with most of the property owners opposing the annexation citing costs to hook up to water and sewer utilities, which could run as high as $7,000, according to Jim Robinson, owner of San Joaquin Valley Homes. Robinson said the remaining 20 property owners should be left out of the project so that he doesn’t have to fund water and sewer lines for the entire county island.
“We don’t think we should be the bank that they pay back through hook ups over time,” Robinsons said.
Jesus Rivera opposed the project saying he would have to shut down his business at the corner of K Road and Burke Street because you can’t have a commercial business in a area zoned for residential homes. After being assured that his business would be grandfathered in, Rivera said the City should consider how and when it will run utility lines to the area and make improvements to Burke, which is essentially a dirt road north of K. “It’s more potholes than anything else,” he said.
While Rivera was the only person to comment at the meeting, two more property owners submitted letters in opposition of the annexation. Diana Sullivan, who owns five pieces of property on the north and south side of K Road, stated that the farmland has been in her family for four generations. In her letter, Sullivan said she voiced her concerns over having farmland, “with its noise, dust, tractors, well, irrigation and so on”, next to a proposed neighborhood at an April 24 Visalia Planning Commission meeting. She also said that she did not feel she had received proper notification of the hearings.
Patricia Wilson, along with her sisters and husband, owns six pieces of property on the north and south side of K Road. She stated in her letter that the properties had been in her family for four generations as well. She also cited concerns over farming operations as well as increased traffic, overcrowding at local schools and the “loss of country setting.”
Principle Planner Paul Scheibel said because the property owners who oppose the project make up less than 50% of the annexation, the City could move forward without their consent. Councilmember Phil Cox agreed saying, “Whether these property owners want to be in the City of Visalia, they are in the city of Visalia.”
The second project along Highway 198 had been a long time coming. Matt Ainley, with 4 Creeks, Inc. engineering firm, spoke on behalf of the property owners applying to be annexed into the city limits. He said this was one of the first projects he worked on when the company was established in 2008 and it was already in motion at least five years before that, according to Councilmember Bob Link.
The 34.5 acres would be subdivided into 10 lots with about 30 acres for commercial development and 10 lots designated about 6 acres for riparian setbacks, ditch realignment and storm drainage. Both annexations will now go before the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO), an independent body that rules on boundary issues between cities and county, part of which is to encourage the elimination of county islands which create logistical problems of providing services to those property owners.