KINGSBURG – A number of residents living near the proposed Hash residential subdivision brought a variety of concerns to the latest Kingsburg City Council meeting Feb. 21. While issues such as nearby nesting birds and alleyways infringing on neighboring properties were raised, the overriding worry focused on traffic flow through the area.
The Hash subdivision is proposed for 50 acres of land owned by Steve Hash at the northwest corner of Madsen/Road 16 and Kern/Avenue 396. Approximately 165 single-family and eight multi-family units would be built in four phases.
While council members were able to answer questions about the increased need for safety services and school enrollment, the influx of traffic remained a sticking point with residents.
“We’re not going to kid you. If we’re going to put in more houses, there’s going to be more traffic,” Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Blayney said.
Councilman Sherman Dix said while a traffic study has been completed, it may need to be revisited as traffic counts were taken after peak rush hours.
“We see differences in the impacts on traffic. That’s part of what we’re saying. Approval will be conditional on those being addressed and mitigated if necessary,” Dix said.
Council voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding with Tulare County where most of the property lies. The project now moves on to the Tulare County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
City Attorney Michael Noland said the subdivision would be built to meet Kingsburg’s building and landscaping standards and that the surrounding roads and utilities would be improved. Other improvements would include bike paths, pedestrian connections and a community facilities district would be formed to maintain common areas. A tax-sharing agreement between Tulare County and Kingsburg would provide monies for city services such as police and fire protection.
“Everything would be consistent with a residential development constructed within the city limits of Kingsburg,” Noland said. Any changes from the specific plan, environmental impact report or the project as a whole will need to come back to council and city staff for review and approval, Noland said.
Council members reminded developer Stephen Peck of a number of changes that need to be added to the current map, such as removing openings in perimeter walls and adding a Little League baseball park near Safarjian Field.
Peck said the MOU summarizes those changes and Tulare County is agreeable to adopting the standards and tax-sharing agreements as the project moves forward.
“The direction we’ve given to the county is all of those items seem reasonable to us. We have no objection to them,” Peck said of the requested changes.
Nearby residents attended and voiced concerns about alleys, voting rights as the land lies in Tulare County and the effect of development on nearby nesting birds. Others were concerned about how the increase in population would affect local schools. Councilwoman Laura North is also a principal at Washington Elementary and said that influx is actually needed as school enrollment has fallen lately.
“Actually, we’re significantly down in our enrollment and desperately need more kids. Our budget numbers we’re getting from state and federal are based on those numbers and we could easily handle another couple hundreds of kids.”
More residents raised concerns about how the city’s fire and police departments would handle the extra work that would result from having more neighborhoods to patrol.
Blayney said the tax-sharing agreement with Tulare County would result in funds being returned to the city to hire more staff for those departments.
“This would be money to go into our general fund that we could allocate to our fire and police. This would give us more money to use for that but we can’t hire three-quarters of a firefighter or a policeman. That’s what the numbers work out to be as to what the burden for additional services would be.”
Peck said changes in the street design can be made to address residents’ concerns and allow for traffic flow between the new residential area and the city.
“We do have options where we can cul-de-sac most of those connecting pieces but that doesn’t seem to be in conformance with the spirit of the North Kingsburg Plan of integrating this with the rest of the neighborhood. It’s simply a matter of balance.”
In other matters:
- The council also approved moving to district elections. In future elections, council members will elected by voters in districts rather than by all voters in the city. Those districts are yet to be determined and residents will be able to view proposed districts at future public hearings.
- Council also moved to consider revamping its proposed ¾ cent sales tax measure slated for the June elections since a proposed state-level measure would void it if that measure gets approved by voters. Known as the Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018, the measure would drastically limit the city’s ability to raise revenue by requiring any new taxes to win two-thirds voter approval rather than a simple majority. Kingsburg’s proposed general sales tax requires a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote.