Toward the long-term goal of adding jobs, the Fresno City Council on Thursday approved rezoning 95 acres at the city’s southern edge from agricultural use to industrial purposes when it is eventually annexed.
The rezoning – actually a “prezoning” because the land is outside the Fresno city limits – covers the northwest corner of East and Central avenues. The council approved the zoning on a 7-0 vote.
Rezoning the property for eventual annexation into the city as industrial land “promotes consistency with … the Fresno General Plan” and would “preserve and protect the industrial character of the area and will expand the city’s industrial capacity,” according to a staff report to the City Council.
Leland Parnagian, whose family’s G3 Development Co. is the owner and developer of the nearby North Pointe Business Park, told the City Council that there are no specific plans or tenants in mind for the site. “This is a continuation of what we did with North Pointe eight years ago,” Parnagian said. “We want to cross all the entitlement hurdles now … so when companies do come with job-creating uses, we’ll be ready.”
The North Pointe site, which is on the east side of East Avenue, is the site being pitched by the city for a much-sought-after Nordstrom’s e-commerce fulfillment center. Fresno and Visalia are among the communities competing for the project, which could create 1,000 full-time jobs.
“More fulfillment centers (like Nordstrom’s) would be great” as a future tenant, Parnagian told the council, “but more likely we’re looking at light industrial” tenants.
Councilman Lee Brand described the prezoning as an important piece of enabling Fresno to compete for more industrial and manufacturing businesses. “You have to have properties that are shovel-ready,” he said. “That’s not just the infrastructure (including utilities, streets and sewer lines) but entitlements as well.”
Development entitlements represent the time-consuming process of lining up all the paperwork and conditions necessary for construction, including zoning, land-use permits and more.
Economic expansion act
Also on Thursday, Brand introduced a broad proposal of measures to promote economic expansion, including development of major job-producing industries like agribusiness and manufacturing and small-business growth in economically disadvantaged areas of the community.
The measures include waiving or reducing development impact fees paid by property owners to offset the demands their projects place on city services; deferring payments from developers for off-site improvements such as curbs, gutters, streetlights and other infrastructure; and, for projects with the most substantial potential to provide large numbers of verifiable jobs in the community, a partial rebate to the business of revenue the city would gain from property or sales taxes generated by the project.
Instead of guaranteeing loans or serving up title to city-owned property, “this is laid out in a way that doesn’t give away the farm,” Brand told The Bee. “There’s a pay back, and we’re going to measure that pay back. We’re going to get back every dollar we invest.”
Developers and projects that seek to take advantage of the measures would first have to go through what Brand called a stringent screening process to analyze their economic benefits.
The Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Council unanimously endorsed the proposal by Brand, who is a candidate for mayor. His council term ends this year.
The fee exemptions require amendments to the Fresno Municipal Code and would need council approval.