Visalia divided over city's growth

FRESNO, Calif.

The owner of Packwood Creek shopping center and other concerned people are worried building near Highway 99, will create urban sprawl.

Dozens of acres of agriculture land sit vacant off Caldwell Avenue and Highway 99 in Visalia. As the City Council and Visalia Planning Commission work on the city's general plan -- many are worried plans to change this area into a big-box commercial zone will hurt Visalia's Downtown and Mooney Boulevard.

Visalia's City Planner Josh McDonnell said, "Installing some sort of major regional retail commercial center there with a very large anchor something like an Ikea or Bass Pro Outlet or at least providing the type of land and use that would allow that type of growth to occur out there."

The Visalia City Council is split on whether they approve of the plans. City Councilman Greg Collins strongly opposes it.

Collins commented, "It really takes away from the energy that we've developed in our downtown which has been very successful and Mooney Boulevard and sort of sends a mixed message."

Collins says while Packwood Creek is busy -- the city still needs to focus on filling the rest of money's empty spaces.

Packwood Creek owner Don Orosco said developing large commercial development away from Mooney Boulevard could leave Mooney retailers struggling to compete. Orosco is behind the group "Protect Visalia" which through social media and email flyers is trying to warn others of the city's potential plans.

McDonnell said, "The primary benefit for the city would be sales tax revenue that's really what would potentially come out of there."

Collins said, "If they stop out there, there's really no reason to come into Visalia proper and so it poses a lot of problems."

The city is scheduled to vote on the zone change on 99 and Caldwell in February. There's no indication of which way that vote will go.

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