Northwest Fresno neighbors speak out against development of apartment complex

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A northwest Fresno neighborhood could soon see some significant changes.

A local developer wants to turn a vacant piece of property into a 160-unit multi-story apartment complex despite objections from neighbors.

The proposed site is an empty parcel of land north of Herndon near Forkner Elementary a little less than 10.5 acres in size.

Nearby homeowners say the new apartment complex will bring too much traffic and lower property values. Parents at the school feel their children would be pushed away.

Before developer Dirk Poeschel can convert the site, he'll have to get the City's approval.

The area is currently zoned for commercial property, and many neighbors said they want to keep it that way.

"We want it to be developed but we want it to be developed smartly," said Vicki Allen-Westburg, one neighbor.

Allen-Westburg lives near the proposed site and claimed an apartment complex that size will be detrimental to her neighborhood.

"Don't change the plan, don't change the zoning. This is what we as homeowners were told was going to be there, and if you change the plan to 160 housing, will it directly affect me? Yes. Could it drop my property values? Most likely."

It's where Allen-Westburg has raised her family for more than two decades.

She said the neighborhood is landlocked with only two major entrances.

High-density housing would add extra traffic to the roads used to access the area -- and create a traffic jam near Forkner Elementary.

"What is the most important thing you purchase in your life? It's your home. What is the biggest investment? Your home. They're messing with my home."

Video: Hundreds voice outrage at public meeting
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A local developer wants to turn a vacant piece of property into a 160-unit multi-story apartment complex despite objections from neighbors.

At a public meeting held on Thursday night, not a single person was in support of the development - and there were at least 200 people at the meeting.

They were all vocal and very clear about what they didn't want the land to become.

Brandon Champ's daughter attends the school.

He was worried the housing complex will force his third grader to separate from friends and go somewhere else.

"We are just a few blocks away, and so many nearby student will push our children away," he said.

In the meantime, kids at the planned 148 unit apartment, three story complex would be brought in.

Michelle McGaughy, one of the school's crossing guards, said that will impact traffic. She said traffic is already out of control, especially near a roundabout that sits directly in front of the lot the proposed apartment buildings would fill.

"If you are trying to get off Herndon to Valentine through that roundabout in the mornings, with school that is backed up all the way to Herndon so if they were to put in apartments here you would be gridlocked. You would be gridlocked on Herndon," she said.

Dirk Poeschel is the consultant for the owners of the property.

While he said he hears the concerns from neighbors, he also said the project can improve the community.

"We are going to do a lot of good things for the neighborhood, fix an old sewer line, fix the roadway that is not safe, continue to connect to regional trail system and provide a really great infield project."

But for now, district 1 councilmember Mike Karbassi made it clear this is the very beginning of a long process.

"This isn't a simple building this is a rezoning and it's much more complicated than that. Basically what that means is since this property is currently zoned for office space, the owners would have to submit an application to the city and the city would evaluate that before it goes to public comment," he said.
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