Hidden Valley Park debate

Some Hanford residents have submitted a petition to hold a referendum on the Hanford City Council's April 24 decision to re-zone the vacant land next to Hidden Valley Park as "low-density residential." However, city officials are challenging the legal validity of the petition, which was submitted on Thursday.

HANFORD — The future of the vacant, city-owned, 19-acre parcel next to Hidden Valley Park was once again a hot topic of discussion at this week's Hanford City Council meeting.

The issue of what to do with the land remains controversial.

Should it be sold for development? Should it be kept vacant for a future expansion of the park? Where would the money come to pay for the expansion, and how much would it cost?

Such questions remained unanswered at Tuesday night's council meeting.

As in previous council discussions — the last of which was in in August 2016 — local residents with connections to the park voiced strong opinions in favor of converting at least part of the land into additional park space.

Hanford resident Mark Pratter, who lives near the park and walks his dog there, stood up Tuesday to propose a compromise that could bridge the gap between those in favor of selling the property to gain the city additional revenue and those who want to see the park, which is currently 20 acres in size, expanded.

Pratter's idea is to extend Rodgers Road to connect with Bryce Road, sell off the approximately 12 acres west of Rodgers Road and retain the smaller section east of Rodgers Road for a future park expansion.

If it worked out, the compromise would leave the council the option of taking the money from the sale and setting it aside for a Hidden Valley Park expansion.

Or not: The proceeds could be used for any number of city projects, including a renovation of the Old Courthouse building and refurbishing the Bastille.

Pratter and other residents who spoke out about the land expressed their desire that the money from any future sale of part of the property go toward expanding the park.

"Most of the council members seemed amenable to a compromise on the issue," Pratter said Wednesday in an interview.

"I hope that it can be done," Pratter said. "We're not going to give up. We need to press on."

"They could put part of the money from the sale of the land ... toward extending Hidden Valley Park," said Hanford resident Pamela Johnson in an interview. "If they do that, it would pretty much pay for itself."

Johnson said that using money from the sale of any part of the land for something other than an expansion of the park would be a deal-breaker for her as far as supporting the compromise is concerned.

No study has been done of the feasibility or cost of Pratter's idea, according to Hanford Community Development Director Darlene Mata.

"It would be a full-on project," she said in an interview Wednesday. "We haven't worked on that yet. The issue just got raised yesterday."

Mata said she wouldn't move forward with the idea unless and until the council directed her to do so.

The only decision the council made on the issue this week was to direct city staff to move forward with re-zoning the property to low-density residential.

Mata assured council members that the proposed change would allow the council to sell all or part of the property for housing development if the council wanted to go in that direction at some future date.

Mata said the new designation wouldn't preclude turning all or part of the property into parkland if the council wanted to go forward with that idea.

The land is currently zoned for "public facilities," which prohibits any of it from being sold for development.

The proposed change is part of a full-blown overhaul of the city's general plan, the governing document which guides all land-use planning decisions in Hanford.

The council is planning to cast a final, yes-or-no vote on the overhaul in February.

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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