A battle could erupt between Visalia and Tulare County over a proposal by landowner Bill Travis to build a “super regional” shopping center at the southeast corner of Highway 99 and Caldwell Avenue.
Travis submitted an application to the county to build the proposed Sequoia Gateway Commerce and Business Park on 126 acres of farmland.
Sequoia Gateway would be built in three phases, starting with a hotel and restaurant, followed by offices and an agricultural visitors center, and ending with a shopping center in 10 to 15 years, said Steve Peck, the project’s planner.
It would draw customers from Visalia, Tulare, Exeter, Hanford, Lemoore, Delano, Kingsburg and Selma, he said.
But the city is on record opposed to major commercial development at the site, about a mile from city limits.
In 2013, Visalia City Manager Mike Olmos wrote a three-page letter to the county opposing the project when it first came before the Tulare County Board of Supervisors for discussion.
The city’s main objection, Olmos wrote, is that the proposed development could cut into business on the Mooney Boulevard commercial corridor and downtown Visalia.
But Peck said there’s no economic threat to Visalia because Sequoia Gateway is for big retailers that need freeway access.
“The project will be able to capture sales and meet consumer needs that can’t be met elsewhere in the community,” Peck said.
Supervisor Phil Cox of Visalia said the city could soften its opposition as more development occurs on Mooney Boulevard.
“There’s not that much land left there anymore” on Mooney, he said. “Time will tell.”
Visalia City Council Member Greg Collins said the Sequoia Gateway project undermines the city’s long-term planning strategy that has guided growth and economic development for decades.
“It’s urban sprawl,” he said.
He said he questions whether the proposed project complies with the county’s new general plan.
Visalia City Planner Josh McDonnell said city staff will study the proposal and seek City Council direction.
It will take months for the county to process the application. The developer must do an environmental impact report, and the Tulare County Planning Commission must hold public hearings and make a recommendation.
The final vote rests with the Board of Supervisors.
B.I.A. BOB: Bob Keenan — aka “B.I.A. Bob” — is retiring as executive director of the Building Industry Association of Tulare and Kings Counties after 25 years.
A retirement party will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Lamp Liter Inn in Visalia.
Keenan, 69, is an unabashed supporter of developers, especially home builders, and carried the torch to city councils and planning commissions up and down the Valley, and to the halls of power in Sacramento.
“His extensive knowledge of the building industry, combined with his passion, steadfast focus and tireless determination have caused Bob to be recognized across California as a warrior for the building industry,” said Mike Knopf, president of Quad Knopf engineering and planning.
Mike Lane of Visalia, past president and CEO of Lane Engineers and former member of the Visalia Planning Commission, has been hired as the new executive director.
MEDICAL SHARPS: Residents of Kings County who use needles to administer medicine such as insulin can now dispose of needles and syringes at kiosks, courtesy of the Kings County Health Department.
The health department installed red disposal kiosks outside the King County Sheriff’s Office in Hanford and police departments in Avenal, Corcoran and Lemoore.
Since 2008, it has been illegal in California to dispose of syringes, needles and lancets in the trash.