Proposed Merced office complex is causing controversy

FRESNO, Calif.

The plot of land near Mercy Medical Center Merced has neighbors divided. A developer is asking the city to re-zone this residential area for commercial office space. The plans call for three two story buildings and one single story building with a mix of medical and general office uses.

Shannon Cantrell said, "We don't feel that he should ruin a family friendly neighborhood for this project, particularly for those who live right here behind the project."

Cantrell is one of several residents in this area who don't like the proposal. She says the main concern is the safety of children who attend Cruickshank Middle School, just across the street.

"We're really concerned about the kids during pick up and drop off time," said Cantrell. "The traffic at times is really bad along Mansionette and Mercy Avenue."

The Merced City School District also opposes the idea because of traffic concerns, but the project designers say they're taking extra steps to ease congestion, including plans for adding a third lane to Mercy Avenue.

Steve Cook said, "I'm all in favor of it, 100% yeah. I think it will actually add value to our neighborhood and all the things that go along with it."

Cook says he's attended multiple public meetings with the developer, whose proposal was rejected by the city council last year. He and other supporters say the new, revised plan makes perfect sense.

"They took the suggestions and made modifications," said Cook. "They went from 3 stories to 2 stories, they're only going to be Monday through Friday."

The developer also reduced the size of the complex from 133 thousand square feet to about 118 thousand. But opponents argue there's enough existing and planned office space in the area already.

Cantrell said, "We're just hoping the developer will either build low density residential housing or sell it to someone who will."

The planning commission was split on the proposal, so the city council is set to consider it in May.

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