Divided Clovis City Council approves apartment project

The Fresno BeeFebruary 3, 2014 

An overflow crowd jammed into the Clovis City Council chambers Monday night, Feb. 3, 2014, to voice opposition to a zoning change for an apartment project in southeast Clovis. The Clovis City Council, on a 3-2 vote, approved the zone change.

BRIANNA VACCARI

A southeast Clovis apartment project that generated scores of opposition letters from surrounding residents got the green light to proceed from the City Council Monday after a contentious public hearing.

In a split vote before a standing room-only crowd, City Council members granted a zoning change needed for the project to proceed, but required the developer, Schussing Co. of Clovis, to pay for a traffic study to address some of the concerns of neighbors. Mayor Lynne Ashbeck and Council Member Harry Armstrong opposed the appeal.

"As an elected official, we can't just think of one neighborhood," Council Member Jose "Joe" Flores said, alluding to the "big picture" of Clovis and its residents.

The city's Planning Commission opposed zoning the property at the northeast corner of Temperance and Ashlan avenues for apartments in November, concluding it was incompatible with the neighborhood. The developer appealed the decision to the City Council.

Apartment zoning for the site has been proposed in the city's general plan for 20 years, said city planner Dwight Kroll.

At one time, the corner had about nine acres proposed for apartments until the city rezoned six of those acres for a single-family home project about 15 years ago, he said.

Unfortunately, Kroll said in an interview before Monday's meeting, the apartment project is on the last empty lot in the neighborhood.

"In a perfect world, that project would have been built first so residents would have noticed it was there before they moved in," he said.

The apartment proposal by the Schussing Co. covers about 3.15 acres. Although the company has yet to file development plans for the site, the zoning would allow for up to 47 apartments. A typical single-family project on a similar-sized parcel would contain about 13 units.

Over a course of 2 1/2 hours, community members presented their concerns to the council as others jammed into the council chambers and spilled into the lobby. They cited heavier traffic with one access point to the proposed complex from Ashlan Avenue, as well as parking and noise problems and reduction in property values.

Ken Motschiedler, Schussing's project manager, said he was astonished at the level of opposition from the community. A town hall-style meeting was held at a nearby elementary school in January where Schussing and neighbors discussed the concerns.

Despite the community meeting, Motschiedler said it was apparent few minds were changed.

"I think at the end of the day we can all leave here with the same opinion that we had when we came in," Motschiedler said.

After the council voted, the unhappy neighbors peppered the council with questions about what would happen after the traffic study was conducted -- especially if the study concluded the additional traffic would be a problem for the neighborhood.

Ashbeck said if the outcome was negative, the developer would likely have to reduce the number of apartments planned for the parcel.

The reporters can be reached at bvaccari@fresnobee.com, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6330.

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