Northeast Fresno re-zoning dispute

FRESNO, Calif.

Some of the residents say, when they moved in, they were told the piece of empty land behind them would eventually become a shopping center. But, a new plan to build homes instead has sparked some mixed reaction.

Edwin Suarez said, "So, when we're in our yards, all we're going look at is other people's windows."

Suarez has lived in the Bella Montagna subdivision for five years. He bought a home here, thinking one day the 13-acre lot behind it would be a shopping center. But, earlier this week, he and other residents received this notice from Fresno's Planning and Development Department alerting them, the McCaffrey Group wants the area re-zoned so they can build 118 homes.

"Well, they need to consider what was promised," said Suarez. "Granted it wasn't in writing, but it was a promise to the community of what the quality of living we were going to have."

Suarez and other homeowners here say, they paid close to a million dollars for their homes. They fear another development with smaller, more inexpensive houses would bring their property values down.

Caren Myers said, "With the downturn in the economy, we've already had an issue with the fact these homes have lost value."

They're also worried about pollution, and losing their view of the nearby Sierra Mountains. But, not everyone in Bella Montagna agrees. Michael Mueller says he would rather have homes over shops.

Mueller said, "You know, to me, if there's homes there, I think our neighborhood will be quieter. I think there will be less traffic around our neighborhood."

Fresno City Council member Lee Brand represents District 6. Having served on the Planning Commission in the past, he says re-zoning requests are fairly common. And while the decision normally rests with the commission, homeowners do have the right to ask the mayor, or their council member to appeal.

Lee Brand said, "I'd probably grant the appeal, not having made a decision one way or another, but simply giving them the right to go one level higher and to thoroughly review the issue and make a decision."

No one from McCaffrey returned our calls Friday. Fresno's Planning Commission will review the issue at their meeting on Wednesday. It starts at 6 o'clock inside Fresno's city council chambers.

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