The Fresno City Council has buried Running Horse and perhaps laid the foundation for a new era on the city's west side.
The council on Thursday night approved an amendment to the land-use code that allows large-scale commercial farming in areas zoned for homes.
The change applies citywide, but its immediate effect will be felt at one site in particular -- the 360 acres that were once part of the failed Running Horse residential/golf course project in west Fresno.
The Assemi family, owner of Granville Homes, and a partner bought the land this year and want to grow almonds until the site is ready for houses. The new name is Mission Ranch.
The Assemis' challenge was getting the land zoned for farming while retaining the residential zoning.
Granville Vice President Jeff Roberts filed a one-sentence text amendment to achieve this goal. This led to a convoluted series of events. The proposal grew to include everything from community gardens to industrialized farms.
Just about no one who likes to grow food was happy.
But two things occurred to turn Thursday's anticipated war into a long but relatively benign exercise in democracy.
Council Member Oliver Baines helped broker a deal between the Assemis and west side leaders worried about environmental fallout from a big farm next to urban life. The deal gives west Fresno a voice in Mission Ranch's future. It also took the steam out of the Assemis' other critics.
And Baines at the start of Thursday's hearing turned the complex text amendment into something manageable. The text amendment's rules for community gardens and commercial farms of 50 acres or less wouldn't kick in for another six months. City officials expect to bring the 2035 general plan update to the council within a half-year. In essence, little farms and communal gardens got kicked down the road.
The rules for everything else in the text amendment -- in other words, farms of at least 51 acres -- would go active in 31 days. That universe, at least for now, is pretty much limited to Mission Ranch.
Nearly 30 people spoke at the two-and-a-half-hour hearing. Some said Mission Ranch will be a blessing. Some said Mission Ranch will pose environmental risks.
The council vote was 5-0. Council Members Steve Brandau and Clint Olivier were absent.
Baines, the maestro of it all, said nothing at the end. But Council President Blong Xiong did give him a hearty handshake.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or email@example.com. Read his City Beat blog at news.fresnobeehive.com/city-beat.