Southwest Fresno residents voice concerns of more industrial businesses coming to area

Vanessa Vasconcelos Image
Friday, October 14, 2022
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The S. Elm Avenue rezoning project went before the Fresno City Council and won approval, but not without heated debate during a meeting at city hall.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In a unanimous decision, the Elm Avenue re-zoning project was approved, but not as originally planned.

"I'm recommending we only rezone a third of the 92 acres that house the pharmaceutical distribution centers that are essential, and the garbage facilities that were mandated by state law to provide to the city," says Councilmember Miguel Arias.

Residents, including Shawn Riggins, voiced their concerns in Thursday's meeting, citing impacts on the environment and quality of life.

"It's not sustainable for people to be human living under those conditions," he said. "There were times when growing up, we couldn't even play outside. The smell and the stench were so bad, you didn't just smell it -- you felt it it was like a physical presence and we knew it wasn't good."

Riggins says while they want economic prosperity in the area, southwest has been a dumping ground.

"Why does everything have to go in southwest Fresno," Riggins said. "If these are such great opportunities, why aren't the other council members eager to get these businesses in their areas? It's because they know their constituents aren't going to put up with that."

By rezoning to light industrial, they would be able to borrow money to transition their vehicles to comply with state requirements surrounding electric vehicles.

Less than three miles away, another plan amendment and rezoning of almost 19 acres on the southeast corner of S. West and W. Church Avenues passed 6-1, paving the way for an almost 478,000 square foot Busseto Foods production, warehouse and distribution facility.

"The whole facility will be solar, all of the vehicles will be EV, the trucks will be EV and electric when they operate," Arias said.

Arias and Soria said given the surroundings, that area should have never been zoned for anything but light industrial.

Residents stand by the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan that was adopted in 2017 that would reduce the number of industrial businesses in the community, arguing there should have been more of an effort to get community input.

City planning has been working with the community that could potentially meet existing businesses and residents in the middle, but the council says that plan still needs work.

When it comes to the Elm Avenue decision, Arias says he's aware the plan to rezone only a third of the parcels doesn't satisfy everyone, but it does reach some balance and addresses future issues that could arise surrounding organic waste requirements.

The move also bans, for those parcels, 17 industrial uses that the community has already outlined that they don't want, including Ag processing, airports, towing and impound.

It also adds layers of protection if future councils adopt less restrictive limitations for industrial use.

The council will revisit the overlay in 90 days.