KINGSBURG – A new housing development featuring bicycle and pedestrian paths, a Little League park and water splash pad is being proposed for a 50-acre parcel just east of Kingsburg.
“This keeps the town from being lop-sided,” said land owner Steve Hash during a Jan. 23 workshop with Kingsburg City Council members. The property is south of Sierra Street and north of Kern Street. “We’re filling in the backside and [homeowners] will be able to walk to the main street and walk to the restaurants.”
While the proposal will be brought back to Council at the regular Feb. 21 meeting, the workshop allowed developer Stephen Peck to answer questions and give an update on changes made after receiving neighbors’ previous input.
Although adjustments have already been made to better align streets, include alleys and allow for smoother traffic flow, residents still had concerns. Questions were raised as to who would be allowed to occupy the eight multi-family units included in the plan, increasing traffic and whether classes would be crowded from the population growth.
Elizabeth Peterson, a 22nd Street resident, was concerned that the splash park would draw more visitors to the neighborhood than usual.
“Is that park intended just for those who live around there? When I hear ‘splash park,’ I hear lots of little kids coming from all over during summer. That would be a concern to have a lot of people in that area.”
Since the park is open to the public, it would draw visitors from throughout town, Peck said. However, the water feature would likely have limited operating hours, he said.
Nicholas Thiessen, a Magnolia Court resident, raised concerns about how the development will affect property values in the area.
“What’s the average home price in this development? Are the rentals going to be available to Section 8?” he asked in reference to the state’s low-income housing voucher program.
Peck said the homes would be priced comparably to a similar tract in Visalia and cost from $260,000 to $350,000. The rentals would not be subsidized, he said.
Even Mayor Michelle Roman said traffic is hectic at nearby Lincoln Elementary school and was looking to see how developers would address that.
“There’s times when traffic gets really crazy in the morning and then after school. I’m sure a traffic study will have to be done at some point. I know this is going in in phases as well, but I’m just trying to understand the flow of traffic patterns,” she said.
City Manager Alex Henderson said that the proposed one-story houses in the Hash Development meet North Kingsburg Specific Plan standards and would be built in five phases. The lots will range from 7,000 to 10,000 square feet. There are 165 single-family homes and eight multi-family units included. Since it’s just outside the city limits, developers are coordinating with Tulare County officials regarding the project.
“Tulare County’s been very cooperative,” Peck said. “They’d like to see this property developed as part of your city. They’re willing to do the tax-share agreements,” he said of a financial arrangement where taxes would be returned to Kingsburg as the city will provide services such as fire and police protection and street and park maintenance.
“The county will be giving some of the new taxes to you for your services,” Peck said. Those taxes won’t fully cover all the community costs, thus a services district will be set up that the county will oversee.
“What we tell the homeowners is, rather than worrying that you might not get your roads paved for another 30 to 40 years, you’re paying into a fund that’s going to make sure it’s done every 10 to 15 years on a reliable cycle. When something breaks at the park, it’ll be maintained. There’s money to make sure everything’s maintained the way you’d want it maintained.”
Hash said he was excited about the 2.5 acre park that will be a focal point of the development.
“I have two daughters that still live here and four grandchildren that live here. Hopefully, my grandsons will be playing baseball on that field. It would be a treat to see that someday,” he said.
The park would include a soccer field, a splash pad, a basketball court and covered areas. A storm drainage basin has been moved to another nearby piece of property also owned by Hash to allow for more green space. The plan is to provide an additional piece of property for the Little League complex next door.
Council members Bruce Blayney said while he was glad that alleys were incorporated into the plan, he suggested more of the cul-de-sacs be opened up to tie into Madsen Avenue. Residents have raised concerns that openings intended for bicyclists and pedestrians wind up making the area vulnerable to burglars passing through.
“We have this very same type of situation on the west side,” Blayney said. “Residents there have expressed the desire to make them straight streets or block off the wall because people intrude and then leave the area without being able to be chased down, for lack of a better term.”
Another resident who lives just on the other side of the county line said future residents would need to be aware of the fact they cannot vote in city or school elections.
Henderson said although that is the case, residents in the new subdivision would still be able to look to Kingsburg for code enforcement and police and fire protection.
“We’re not going to say, ‘Sorry you’re in Tulare County so you’ve got to call there. This is going to act like a Kingsburg project. There’s a financial backside to that and we’ll be compensated for that. We want to make sure this project made sense for Kingsburg, neighborhood-wise and financially, for it to move forward,” he said of the tax-sharing and community district plans.
Peck said as far as school attendance is concerned, his feedback from the school districts is that an increase in attendance would actually help with funds.
“There’s some need for attendance. This project will also pay into school impact fees to assist with any upgrades or expansions.”
In regard to traffic speeds, Peck said streets would be designed with traffic-calming measures, such as bulb outs that narrow the roadways.
The solution to dispersing traffic throughout the neighborhood, rather than having it funnel onto only a few roadways, is still up for consideration, Peck said.
“In regards to connectivity of the streets, that’s something we’re open to. It’s better to have more points of connection so the traffic is dispersed amongst lots of streets. Otherwise, it takes all the traffic from three streets and concentrates it onto one, or pushes it all to the perimeter.”
Blayney said he understood having new subdivisions built next door can cause concern. Even he recalls when grape vineyards near his 14th Street residence were removed and new houses sprung up.
“I had a great view of the Sierras, but I always knew that the piece of property across the street would eventually be sold and they’d build houses on it.”
He realizes the only way to have kept that view was to buy the property himself, he said.
“You’re never going to have your view maintained unless you buy the lot across the street. People who own property have the right to use it, as long as it’s legal, in any way they want to. That’s America.”