Developer opposes Planned Parenthood clinic near Sequoia Mall

Mall owner appeals planning commission’s approval of the clinic over concerns of parking and protests; city council will hold public hearing on Feb. 7

VISALIA – A local developer is opposing a Planned Parenthood clinic proposed for Mooney Boulevard.

Developer Dave Paynter, owner of Paynter Realty & Investments, Inc., stated in a letter to the Visalia Planning Commission he is concerned with patients at the medical office, located at 3221 S. Mooney Blvd., using up parking spaces for nearby retailers Bed Bath & Beyond and Marshalls, both of which he owns as part of the Sequoia Mall property, and the possibility of protests.

“The medical clinic proposed is Planned Parenthood,” Paynter wrote in a Dec. 10 letter. “Our concern is that the typical demonstrations which occur outside of Planned Parenthood will also be significantly harmful to both Marshalls and Bed Bath & Beyond as well as to the current and future businesses located at the Sequoia Mall.”

Planned Parenthood has been a source of controversy in communities across the country over its offering of abortion services, which can include in-clinic abortions or the abortion pill, as well as referrals to abortion clinics and follow up appointments. Planned Parenthood provided services to an estimated 2.4 million people in 31 states in 2020. The organization also advocated for Immigrant Rights, Defund the Police, Get Out the Count, and Bans Off My Body campaigns nationwide.

Planned Parenthood already has a clinic on Stevenson Street in Visalia which provides abortion referrals, birth control, women’s reproductive health, HIV services, LGBTQ services, as well as testing, treatment and vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases, according to PlannedParenthood.org. The organization offers low or no cost services depending on one’s ability to pay and help enroll patients into services to assist low-income residents.

Rafael Garcia, senior planner for the city of Visalia, said Paynter’s letter was the first time he was aware the project was a Planned Parenthood because applicants do not have to notify the city of who the tenant will be, and in some cases don’t know and are remodeling for future uses. The city received the letter three days before the Planning Commission’s Dec. 13 public hearing on the clinic so staff was unable to include it in the packet. Nothing in the application submitted by Developer Matt Nohr noted the name of the clinic or the types of services they would offer.

“The user is a leading provider of high-quality healthcare services, including pediatric and adult primary care services, to thousands of women, men, and children throughout California every year, by investing in communities, expanding healthcare to all,” the applicant’s operational statement reads.

The statement said the clinic would take up just over 6,500 square feet of the 10,200 square foot building with hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The clinic is expected to have up to 10 full-time employees and see as many as 40 patients per day.

Commissioner Adam Peck said the letter was emailed to commissioners prior to the meeting but the type of clinic had no bearing on conditional use permit because it only considered whether or not a medical clinic was in compliance with site zoning and municipal code. The public hearing only lasted six minutes and Matt Nohr, director of development for the Orosco Group, was the only one who spoke. The Planning Commission asked a few questions about parking before unanimously approving the permit on a 4-0 vote, as commissioner Chris Gomes was absent. The commission found “That the proposed project will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare, or materially injurious to properties or improvements in the vicinity.”

Only standard conditions were imposed on the project, such as building to Site Plan specifications, a minimum number of parking spaces, and signage and landscaping requirements.

“Most of our discussion was about parking and the traffic circulation issues,” Peck said. “It isn’t really the role of the Planning Commission to consider political issues. Our role is to focus on land use issues.”

Paynter turned his letter into an appeal of the commission’s decision on Dec. 20. The appeal was scheduled for a public hearing at the Visalia City Council’s Jan. 18 meeting but was continued because only three of the five councilmembers were in attendance. The hearing was rescheduled to the council’s Monday, Feb. 7 meeting at 7 p.m.

When Mayor Steve Nelsen announced the continuation of the item, a large number of people left the meeting, suggesting there may be strong opposition to the project when it returns next month. City staff is recommending the council uphold the commission’s decision and deny Paynter’s appeal.

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