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Hidden Valley Park land sale delayed by fuzzy math
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Hidden Valley Park land sale delayed by fuzzy math

Commission finding precludes City Council decision

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Hidden Valley Park vacant land

Controversy continues to brew over the fate of this city-owned vacant acreage immediately west of Hidden Valley Park. The acreage has sat vacant for decades and is surrounding by residential homes on three sides.

The potential sale of a vacant 18-acre field next to Hidden Valley Park has been delayed amid questions about how much park space Hanford actually has.

The Hanford Planning Commission voted 4-3 last week to deny a finding that declaring the field as surplus would be consistent with the city’s general plan.

Last month, the Hanford City Council asked to pursue the sale of the property, which has sat vacant since the city purchased it in 1967. The eastern 20 acres, located at 11th Avenue and Cortner Street, was developed as Hidden Valley Park in the 1970s.

City Manager Darrel Pyle said city staff will bring the item to the council at a future meeting. However, he said, the council will not be able to declare its intent to sell the property until the planning commission finds that the action is consistent with the parks and open space portion of the general plan.

Pyle said the commission was presented with information that raised questions about whether the city offers enough parks for its residents.

“We want the planning commission and the City Council to have all the facts and all of the accuracy before they make a finding,” Pyle said.

The city’s general plan calls for 2 acres of community parks per 1,000 residents.

According to the background report for the current general plan update, the city has 126.5 acres of community parks. That includes large parks like Hidden Valley, as well as community facilities like The Plunge and the Hanford Joint Use Softball Complex.

That translates to about 2.2 acres per 1,000 residents.

Some planning commissioners were concerned that the park inventory listed Hidden Valley Park as a 36-acre park, although the western 18 acres is vacant. Also, combined with the 20 acres of developed land, the park is actually 38 acres.

“There’s not 36 acres of developed land at Hidden Valley Park,” planning Commissioner Travis Paden said at the commission’s Aug. 11 meeting. “I just want to get a background of the legitimacy of this data.”

Prior to the vote, Commissioner Mark Fernandez said he felt the numbers were too close to be certain that the city is meeting its obligation.

“I think the numbers can be manipulated,” Fernandez said. “And they’re so close that I don’t know if we’re right-side up or up-side down.”

Hanford’s 2010 parks master plan is critical of Hanford’s level of service based on the National Recreation and Park Association’s standard of 6.25 to 10.5 acres of developed park space per 1,000 residents. Hanford and many surrounding cities fall below that standard.

Pyle said 2.5 to 5 acres per 1,000 is typical in many Valley cities. Achieving a higher standard would require a lot of money to develop new parks and hire adequate staff to maintain them.

“It starts as a policy statement,” Pyle said. “We might want to say we want 100 acres per thousand.”

According to Fresno’s 2035 general plan, the city has a standard of 3 acres per 1,000 residents. The document says the city maintains about 3.28 acres per 1,000.

Visalia’s general plan, adopted last October, boasts 5.1 acres of park space per 1,000 residents. The plan sets a standard of at least 5 acres per 1,000.

Following the commission’s vote, Pyle said, city staff recognized that the previous totals excluded the Hanford Soccer Complex, which is located near 10th Avenue and Hanford Armona Road.

“It’s about 40 acres of parks and open space that we actively participate in maintaining,” Pyle said.

Pyle said city staff will likely recommend that the council send the decision back to the planning commission along with the new information. An additional 40 acres would place the total community park space at about 3 acres for every 1,000 residents.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or meiman@HanfordSentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeE_HS.

 

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