I have lived in many places across this country, from small towns to big towns to a huge metroplex that covered an entire county. I have heard about zoning and how city goverment can use it to manage the way land use is kept compatible with the goals of city planners.

For example keeping industrial business away from residential zones. Besides the issues of safety, it would be a major eyesore. This sort of zoning restriction makes sense to me.

But I am confused about the need for certain restrictive zoning rules that are being considered tonight. I have talked to many people in the past year about these zoning restrictions and they feel very strongly that these restrictions have saved our downtown from virtual extinction.

These restrictions have in the past compelled service oriented businesses to locate into the downtown district. These are services that all the citizens of Hanford would need at some time or another.

But with limited space, many private homes have now been converted to places of business, for doctors, optometrists, dentists, and others, and the yards where children used to play have been converted to parking lots.

A few weeks ago, Craig Johnson of Salmon's Furniture gave a beautiful 5 minute speech about how convenient it is for him to have all these services located downtown. That is good for him, because his business is also located downtown.

But what about the people in Hanford who live and work in areas far from downtown? Do these restrictions make their lives as convenient?

Parking downtown has become a major issue. With the increase in population, more people are needing to come downtown to use those services.

What parking we have that used to be ample, has now become barely adequate.

And what if those restrictions were left out, as the previous council had intended. What would be the effect? Would all these businesses suddenly abandon the enormous capital they have invested into converting those homes into businesses? There is no good business reason for them to do so.

I mean really, how many optometrists does Walmart or Costco need?

My question to you, the members of this city council, is this, with all these professional services located within the downtown area, is your downtown thriving? Or is it just barely surviving?

Many people I talk to say that downtown is dying.

These restrictions have also protected the furniture businesses in Hanford, which at the time was the a major business conducted in Hanford. People would drive many miles to Hanford to buy furniture.

The zoning restriction with regard to the number of square feet allowed for stores outside of downtown has saved the furniture businesses in downtown ... or did it. I am told there were around 17 furniture stores downtown at on time. How many are there now? A half dozen or so? And the biggest furnture store of them all, Hanford Furniture, is gone. Not even Craig Johnson could save it, and that was his competitor.

I have always been impressed with Mr. Johnson's caring for this town. But for this, he has gone above and beyond the call of a citizen of this community

I acknowledge Craig Johnson with having a concern that any furniture store located outside the downtown district would have a decided advantage over him. Because his store is located within the downtown district, Mr. Johnson is required to pay a double tax that is levied to help support Mainstreet Hanford.

Any furniture store permitted to locate outside that zone, say in Hanford Mall, would not have to pay that tax. That would be a decided advantage that Mr. Johnson could not compete with. Nor should he have to.

What if Hanford leveled the playing field and had only one tax structure instead of two. Then Mr. Johnson would have a better chance to compete.

I have been inside his establishment, and frankly I think of all the furniture stores I have been in across this country, his has the greatest appeal of any of them.

Ashleys may have good furniture, but they are constrained to carry only their own product line. Mr. Johnson, on the other hand, has a selection that far outstrips any chain furniture store. Plus Mr.Johnson is known for the quality of service that he and his staff provides to his customers. And that is not something that comes out of a box.

High quality product with high quality service is an unbeatable combination in any business.

Level the playing field on taxation and Salmons furniture will put Ashleys or any other furniture chain to shame.

By the way, this would also increase interest in developing Downtown Hanford into the thriving heart of this town that it should be.

As for funding Mainstreet Hanford, if the council sees value in doing so, there are ways that can be managed, equitably and fairly. It just requires a little creative thinking and leadership in the city council.

Hanford is growing. Like it or not that is a fact. I mean how can it not, when generation after generation choose to live their entire lives here, both those who were born here, and those who just fell off the turnip truck, such as myself.,

Hanford is growing.

We need a plan for the future, not one of the past.

Jeff Porterfield is the owner of a downtown business. 

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