On Tuesday night, during the regularly scheduled City Council meeting, the public urged the Council to reject the Citrus Blossom subdivision for various reasons. Although the subdivision was not scheduled for a public hearing, members of the public used the oral communications period available at the beginning of each meeting, to voice their oppositions and make their position on the proposed housing project clear.
Gary Lockes was the first to speak to the dais, and told the Council that he used to own the property on which the proposed subdivision would be built. Lockes told the Council that the numbers they reported in the staff report for water were flawed.
“The University of California claims that the water use for that orange grove is four and a half acre feet, which is massively high,” said Lockes. “If you were to use that amount of water, the trees would have died many, many years ago.”
Lockes was followed by a slough of people who echoed their own concerns and reservations about the development of the subdivision. One member of the public even presented a petition that had many signatures in opposition of the subdivision. Many problems with the city’s reports and notices regarding the Citrus Blossom subdivision were also noted by members of the public.
“I want to start off by saying I strongly oppose the proposed project on the southwest corner of Newcomb and Linda Vista,” said Juan Martinez. “I own the property next to the proposed project and I never received a letter or notification of this project. Your proposal to change the zoning to a high-density area is going to affect me and my neighbors personally. I am not opposed to additional building projects that maintain the quality and pride of ownership of the area and are consistent with the [current] zoning.
“As a City Council, if you approve this project,you will single handedly crush mine and my family’s hopes and dreams. You will be completely undoing and reversing all of the hard work I put into saving, planning and building my home in this area. This project will bring more people, traffic and more crime to my neighborhood, not to mention costing me to lose tens of thousands of dollars in property value. In speaking with [a Councilmember] last week, he led me to believe that the city is in no way benefitting from this project. If this is true, why would the city be going through all of this effort and if it is a lie, then how can we believe anything we are being told or promised by the city at this time? You've lost mine and my neighbors trust and we do not want your project here.”
When the Council began to discuss the matter, City Manager John Lollis requested direction from the Council and opened the floor for any of the dais’ questions on the project. Some of the Councilmembers used the time to address a few of the concerns presented by the public.
“We’re not hiding anything,” said Councilmember Virginia Gurrola. “We’re very transparent as a City and, as a Council we are very transparent.”
Councilmember Milt Stowe made a fair point when he said if the Council decided to reject the development of the subdivision, it could deter developers from wanting to develop in the area.
“If we stop this development, then we may stop all development,” said Stowe. “Developers won’t want to come to Porterville.”
Councilmember Daniel Penaloza said that he would be casting his vote based off of the feedback and communication with the public.
“I do think that for me, personally, I have to be cautious of the residents too,” said Penaloza. “I know that no project is ever going to be perfect, but definitely, I don’t think, just seeing the overwhelming amount of support against this, it’s going to be for me, a decision that I will make that my vote will be reflective of the community that is here. That's where I am, and how I’m feeling around this subdivision.”
While the public’s opposition was heard, and Council’s discussion about the subdivision was rather long with a lot of clarification about the project from City Staff, in the end the Council voted to approve the Citrus Blossom subdivision project with a vote of 3-2, as Stowe and Penaloza stood in opposition.