City Council Delay Vote on Residential Housing Standards

The Clovis City Council voted 3-2 to postpone their votes on the amendment of the new residential housing development standards. (CR Photo)

At the City Council meeting on Monday, Mar. 1, the first item on their agenda was the setting of an objective standard for single family residential developments.

There were two parts to vote on regarding the standard. The first was to adopt the standards and the second part was to amend the standards for Single Family Residential Medium Density (R-1-MD) zone districts.

The amendments for the R-1-MD were for the building of setbacks and height, driveway and parking configurations, fencing and exterior design, and aesthetics.

This was to help with the flexibility of placing homes in lots as small as 4,500 square feet.

There were two proposed amendments. The first, amending the size of the garage side setback from 5 feet to 4 feet. The other was allowing tandem garages and reducing such garages from 22 feet by 20 feet to 20 feet by 20 feet.

The problem seen by several councilmembers with the garage side setback was that this is the place where most people place their garbage toters. Several mentioned that by reducing the setback they would be little to no space to place the toters.

Councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua stated one of his concerns was that first responders might have a difficult time getting in should there be an emergency on the property.

Fire Chief John Binaski, who was in attendance, assured Mouanoutoua that if there was an emergency, a garbage toter or anything else in the way would not be a deterrence for first responders.

“At the end of the day, it (toter) doesn’t really affect our modes of operation and how we make it happen,” Binaski said. “We want to get a clear path so we will move it (toter) no matter what.”

Mayor Drew Bessinger had a different concern in mind and that was about older residents trying to maneuver a heavy toter with little to no space.

Councilmember Ashbeck stated she is worried about the unintended consequences that this might create, saying that if there is no space on the side of the garage then they might leave the toters out on the curb.

During public comments, Clovis resident Paul Pierce commented on the reduction of the garages. He mentioned this would create a problem resulting in people having to park outside on the curb. This will lead to neighbors fighting for parking spots and also increase vehicle theft.

Councilmember Ashbeck asked if these standards would take power away from the City Council to change things or grant exemptions.

City Planner Dave Merchen responded that these standards would become the minimum that apply to qualifying projects, but that the R-1-MD council still approves on a case-by-case basis.

Councilmember Bob Whalen commented that even though this standard of high density living was encouraged by a state bill, the community should not blame the state because as a council they have made those exemptions.

“We had made some exemptions to what were our objective standards and those were exemptions based on subjective means,” Whalen said. “Even though SB 330 is what has prompted the objective standards…creating higher density within the city of Clovis is something we have done ourselves.”

Councilmember Jose Flores differed with Whalen, he believed this was something the state had a major hand in. However, he did mention that it was smart to have greater density in the city and preserve agricultural land.

Councilmember Ashbeck stated she believes there should be more conversations with the community, the developers, and the planning commission before they could vote on something like this.

Councilmember Flores and Mayor Bessinger agreed with Councilmember Ashbeck, to hold off on voting in this item until more feedback can be obtained. Councilmembers Mouanoutoua and Whalen were both in favor of voting on the item as it currently stands.

Merchen said that even though there was no timeline for the standards to be set, he urged the council to at least vote on setting the standard, but not the amendments.

The council voted 3-2 in favor of continuing the vote at a later date.

Jorge Rodriguez
Jorge Rodriguez has a passion for journalism and wants to bring the community information and great stories. After high school Jorge joined the U.S. Army and while in active duty he was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in college he worked for the Fresno City College Rampage and the Fresno State Collegian newspapers. He graduated from Fresno State in 2019 with a degree in print journalism.