Planning Commission

MDN Photo by John D. Bennett

California City Economic Development Director Matthew Alexander speaks during the May 21 Planning Commission as staff members Associate Planner Mitzy Cuxum and City Planner Shawn Monk look on. The meeting was also the last planning meeting for Cuxum who will now be working for the city of Arvin.

CALIFORNIA CITY – Public hearings and approval for two zone changes and continued discussion another potential zone change were addressed in the May 21 regular meeting of the California City Planning Commission.

Innovative Real Estate Investments requested zone changes on six lots on the south east corner of Isabella and Mendiburu Road. The lots were zoned Open Space / Residential Agriculture with a requested zone change to M1, light industrial and research, allowing for potential use in cannabis production. The background information stated that the company is planning to build greenhouses on at least four of the six lots.

"We actually are looking at developing it as four regions," said project engineer Brian Glidden of Arrow Engineering. "So the left two parcels are going to be merged into one, and that'll be a single site. That on the right hand side or the east, those two parcels will be merged together and become a site. Then the two remaining parcel are separate sites."

A possible conflict with a neighboring equestrian facility on the opposite side of 77th Street was addressed by the commission. Vice Chair Inge Elmes said she had been told by the owner of that facility that they were opposed to the rezoning.

"That's really the only established use now," said Community Development Director Matthew Alexander. "Otherwise, everything is vacant. And, of course, there's nothing in the M1 zoning that says you can't maintain a use such as the equestrian facility. I don't see how it would have a negative impact on the ongoing equestrian facility."

There were no communications submitted to city staff regarding the rezoning.

"It is a really good location for this type of development," said Glidden. "It's one of the few facilities that have all the utilities up front, for the most part, that we need."

The only public comment cam from Karen Macedonio who requested that commissioners keep in mind not just the immediate neighbors to projects, but the city as a whole.

"I want to call your attention backwards in time a couple of years ago, when we were having the discussions of the council meetings about where we were going to put the marijuana and how it was going to work," she said. "And those were robust discussions. And most of our residents were under the awareness of exactly where the zoning was that it was an one and two, how it was going to impact where they live. And I just want you as you make all these decisions, to look at it from a bigger picture. It's not just the ones that have property next door. It's the residents that were part of the original discussion, and what they thought this was going to bring to our town."

Planning Commission Chair Jim Creighton pointed out that similar zone changes had already been approved in the area.

"We need to figure out at some point how far south we are going to let it (zoning for cannabis development) go," he said. "What I'm showing is that between 77th and Isabella and between Mendiburu and Karen, there is absolutely nothing. Basically what the proponent here is doing is he's doing the zone changes that we were going to do as city initiated zone changes - he's doing much of that right now."

After some additional discussion, the zone changes were approved unanimously by the commission.

The second public hearing and zone change request was for an area farther east, near the Borax Bill Off Highway Vehicle recreation area. The first parcel is 60 acres and located east of 120th Street and straddles Twenty Mule Team Parkway. The second parcel is 80 acres and is located directly south of Twenty Mule Team Parkway and east of 120th Street.

Before proceeding with the public hearing, Alexander said he wanted to remind commissioners and the public about O/RA zoning.

"Almost 80% of the land area in California City is zoned O/RA, which really is a holding zone," he said. "O/RA is intended to be rezoned in the general plan amendment to something, it just depends on probably who's there first and what makes sense from a utility standpoint."

The properties are located roughly two miles from California City Memorial Cemetery and four miles from Borax Bill Park. Karen Sanders, grant administrator and project coordinator for city's off highway vehicle program office, was also invited to comment on the proposed changes due to its proximity to the recreation area.

"Generally speaking, there's no impact on OHV," she said. "The OHV community doesn't tend to camp and ride this closely to town."

Sanders said the first casual campsite locations are east of 135th street and the city owned campsites are much further east. She added that there is an recreational vehicle dump station to the west of the 60 acre parcel.

"I just really don't see that rezoning this as M1 would have any real impact on the OHV recreation," she said.

This project rezoning was also requested by Innovative Real Estate Investments and Arrow Engineering.

Commissioner Ron Hogan questioned the 80 acre parcel's proximity to several single family residential zones.

"You have two residential neighborhoods with that 80 acre parcel right in the middle of them," he said. "Theoretically, since you have residential on both sides, you're putting it down right in the middle of residential neighborhood. I don't have a problem with it being up against businesses, it's protecting the homes."

Commissioner Richard Macedonio also expressed concern about the location, noting that its proximity to power, water and sewer access makes it equally attractive for residential construction.

"Why do we want to go way out there, when we're already developing a large parcel of land that came before this," he said. "Why do we want to develop all the way east now. We're going to go 10 miles east from the park there on Neuralia all the way east to land that is untouched. That is land that should be set aside for people to go live there, not for commercial property."

Two emails about the project were received by staff, both questioning who was developing the property and what their plans were for the property. After additional discussion and comments pro and con from staff, commissioners and members of the public, the zone changes were approved. The vote in this case was three voting yes with Hogan voting against the proposal and Macedonio abstaining.

The final item was continued discussion of a zone change originally brought up at the May 7 meeting. The project contained 14 lots zoned C-2 commercial zones scattered throughout an area between Yerba Boulevard and Mitchell Boulevard and Lindbergh Boulevard and Ley Place. Leland Krelle was requesting they all be reclassified as M1 zones. The staff report prepared after the May 7 meeting classified these changes as a classic spot zoning situation, which should be avoided.

As also discussed at the May 7 meeting, the staff report said there was some merit to simply rezoning all of the properties in that area to the M1 designation.

"Anyone who owns any of those properties, whatever they could do an M1 they could also do in the C2, so they've lost absolutely no options for their property," said Alexander. "Frankly, it's a whole lot smarter to do the entire area to resolve it to M1, rather than piecemeal."

Chairman Jim Creighton noted that Krelle was also prepared to pay for the environmental studies for the entire affected area.

"Which will benefit the city and other developers immensely," he said.

Staff was directed to move forward, working with Krelle, to develop a plan for rezoning the entire area to M1 for consideration at a later meeting.

The next regular meeting of the Planning Commission is schedule for 6 p.m. on June 4 in City Council Chambers, 21000 Hacienda Blvd. The meeting is open to the public.

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