HANFORD - As the Hanford City Council prepares to vote tonight on a general plan and zoning ordinance overhaul, a last-minute change in the overhaul's language has thrown into doubt Adventist Health's proposal to locate a full-service health clinic in the Costco shopping center.
The change, which was hammered out by the council at a special night meeting last week, would not allow Adventist to move forward with the concept.
The change would forbid any kind of medical, dental or optometrist offices at the 58-acre Costco site, including a clinic with doctors seeing patients by appointment.
The only allowed use would be a strictly walk-in urgent care clinic.
"As a nonprofit, faith-based healthcare organization, we continually look for ways to expand access to health care to meet our community’s needs," said Christine Pickering, a spokeswoman for Adventist Health, in a written statement. "We hope the city will look for ways to support and grow that investment instead of restricting it."
The proposed language is a reversal from a joint City Council/Planning Commission recommendation in October 2016 to approve Adventist's idea.
At that Oct. 19 meeting, Randy Dodd, vice president of business development for Adventist Health Central California, asked for the accommodation.
Dodd said he wanted to increase access and convenience, and that putting a clinic in a shopping center is a good way to do that.
"I think the key thing is Costco and the whole shopping center is going to attract a lot of people to that area," Dodd said at the time. "It frees up our ability to serve this population."
Developers of the Costco center said they'd like to bring medical offices and other medical services to the sprawling center, which is likely to be filled out over the next 10 years.
Most other new commercial shopping center developments allow for medical uses such as doctors offices, according to Michael Kennedy, vice president of Retail California, the Fresno-based company that's marketing the Costco center.
Kennedy said it's getting hard to fill brick-and-mortar retail developments because of the growth of Amazon and other e-commerce options.
"We need some other types of uses to lease that space," he said. "Nowadays, in retail centers, I think it's definitely a benefit to have [medical/dental] as an option."
Kennedy said doctors' offices and clinics could help generate daytime business for other businesses, such as restaurants, that he's working to bring in around Costco.
"I don't know why the city would start taking away uses that would help bring more development," said Costco center developer John Kashian. "Adventist wants to go out there."
City Council members reached for comment Monday described the proposed compromise as a way to avoid a 2-2 deadlock vote on the general plan overhaul.
The deadlock is between Councilmen Justin Mendes and Francisco Ramirez, who favor a more free-market approach, and Hanford Mayor David Ayers and Councilman Martin Devine, who lean more toward downtown protectionism.
Councilwoman and Vice-Mayor Sue Sorensen, who would be the deciding vote, has recused herself from Tuesday's vote on the grounds that she owns downtown property and that any changes to downtown zoning could affect downtown property values, including the value of her property.
Devine said he doesn't think there should be "any medical uses" allowed in the regional commercial zone, which includes the Costco area and the Wal-Mart/Target area.
"My purpose is to keep [medical uses] centered in the downtown [area] to keep downtown thriving," he said. "It keeps a crowd downtown."
Devine said that he wants "revenue generating [retail] businesses" to go in around Costco.
"That's what it was intended for," he said.
Ayers couldn't be reached Monday for comment.
Ramirez said any medical uses should be able to locate in the Costco center, including a full-service Adventist clinic.
"For me, it's all about convenience for that rural area," Ramirez said.
Ramirez said he agreed to the urgent care compromise last week to avoid a deadlock.
Ramirez said he's planning to vote for the compromise tonight unless there's a public outcry against it at the meeting. If that happens, he said he'd reconsider.
Mendes couldn't be reached Monday for comment.