Plan to allow farming on former Running Horse property

FRESNO, Calif.

Reverend Booker T. Lewis says it's just a quick fix to help a developer.

"The most egregious aspect of this proposal is that we are actually considering making an on the fly change to governing policy to accommodate one developer and his aspirations for profit."

The issue started when Granville Homes announced plans to turn the former Running Horse development into an almond orchard.

The 360 acre parcel of land in Southwest Fresno had once been slated to be the site of a golf course and housing development. But the project fell apart amidst financial and legal problems that lead to the original developer being sent to prison.

Granville Homes bought the land in March. While known as a home builder they also have agricultural land. Owner Darius Assemi tells Action News the demand for housing on the site is not there yet, so planting almond trees is a temporary measure, which improves the land. But Dr. Venice Curry warned of the health effects of an almond orchard would have on local residents.

"The idea of farming 50 thousand trees and the amount of dust it would kick up is a direct problem for those of us who are exposed to the dust. That would be West Fresno residents."

But the measure being considered by the city council goes beyond this property. Because the city can't easily rezone residential land in the city limits to agricultural land, the measure calls for any vacant land of more than 20 acres within the city limit to be farmed.

Tom Matott of the Fresno Metro Ministries fears vacant land all over town could be converted to farming.

"So it will not just be southwest Fresno that continues to deal with this but it can happen in anyone's neighborhood and those things can be back up against anyone's back yard."

The Fresno City Council is scheduled to hear the farm land conversion measure at their meeting on Thursday.

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