Fresno builder's appeal rejected

A builder's plan for what may be north Fresno's most prominent piece of vacant land suffered a setback this week as the state Supreme Court rejected his petition to appeal a court ruling that overturned city approval.

The city had approved Zinkin Development's plans in 2004 for "Fresno 40," which would bring nearly 500,000 square feet of stores and offices to an area near Woodward Park.

But in April, an appellate court voided the city's approval in its ruling on a lawsuit filed by the Woodward Park Homeowners Association.

Builder DeWayne Zinkin petitioned the Supreme Court less than three months ago to overturn the appellate court's decision, but on Wednesday he received a letter from the court notifying him that his case would not be heard, said his lawyer Timothy Jones.

The homeowners association thought Zinkin's plans for the 40 acres bounded by Friant Road, Audubon Drive, Cole Avenue and Fresno Street would create environmental problems.

"We have River Park right across the freeway," said Joan Heisdorf, the association's president. "We don't need another huge shopping center and more traffic. The air quality would be much worse."

In 2005, the association lost a lawsuit it filed over the issue, but an appellate court reversed the lower court's decision in April.

The appellate court "really hammered the city of Fresno for illegal practices," Heisdorf said, referring to the city's refusal to charge developers for their projects' effects on traffic. The "Fresno 40" project would affect Highway 41 and the Friant Road interchange.

The appellate court's decision and the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case "is a win for the whole state," Heisdorf said.

The case can be cited in future development cases statewide to require developers to pay mitigation fees for infrastructure changes they cause instead of forcing taxpayers to bear the costs, she said.

This case also will force courts to take a more careful view of the environmental effect of new development, said Richard Harriman, the association's attorney.

Zinkin plans to proceed with development of the vacant land after preparing a new environmental impact report -- which typically takes six to nine months -- and then reapplying for any zoning changes, Jones said.

Zinkin did not immediately return calls for comment.