City Council Postpones Voting on Blackhorse Assessment Increase

The City of Clovis has decided to not follow suit in City of Fresno’s “Shelter in Place” Order.

The Clovis City Council discussed the increase of annual assessment fees for the Blackhorse Assessment District, located near Minnewawa and Alluvial Avenues, at the May 3 council meeting.

A Proposition 218 action was called upon to enact an assessment increase for much-needed road work within the gated community that would be voted upon by residents of the estates.

Blackhorse was first established in 1994 with public streets, but residents wanted a gated community. Because it was difficult to form a homeowners association on the existing subdivision, its residents started an assessment district in 1995 to provide maintenance for streets and gates.

According to supervising civil engineer Sean Smith, the streets within Blackhorse require a slurry seal that would help maintain the roads.

Typically, a slurry seal would be applied to a street within seven to 10 years of its construction for maintenance purposes, with continued maintenance every 10 years after. Blackhorse has not had that process done since its inception 25 years ago.

“The slurry seal project, while needed, is costly and will have a significant impact on the fund balances. A slurry seal simply performed as preventative maintenance, and it extends the life of the street,” Smith said.

The increase will affect two benefit areas, the first being the Renaissance Gated access to Minnewawa Avenue, which has a current cost of $557 per lot. The second would be the Country View gated access to Alluvial Avenue with a current fee of $461 per lot.

Benefit areas one and two fees haven’t been increased since 2007 and 2008 respectively. The proposed assessment fee would increase area one to $646 per lot and area two to $544 per lot annually.

Funds balances in each area are currently sufficient for projects, but the slurry seal project would deplete the balances. The proposed increase is for future capital projects and maintenance capital for district administration.

According to a city official, residents of Blackhorse are not necessarily opposed to the increase, but some do feel they need more information on the accounting side of the project.

Steve Doherty, a resident from district one, spoke in front of the Council and feels that the city should have already been allocating collected fees towards road maintenance.

“So, our biggest concern is the lack of visibility of where these funds are being allocated and spent,” Doherty said.

A city official said that in the last 10 years, the city’s been building the funds, and the funds are there for the road work to be done.

However, he says that the district won’t sustain itself once the funds are used. That is why the assessment increase is needed.

In the last few days, the city has collected 10 years’ worth of data and is working to make that financial information available to the public through the website and at the neighborhood meeting scheduled for May 17.

For now, the roads are not at a risk level where the city would need to retake the streets, making them public again.

However, if that were the case, the city would remove the gates around the community, make the streets city streets again and front a high cost to return the roads to an adequate level.

Mayor Jose Flores expressed his frustration with the district assessment because he feels that the rise in assessment fees for maintenance is an ongoing situation that forces City Council to spend time playing referee.

“It’s been a problem every time this thing comes before us. And we play referee, and it’s not the role of the city,” Flores said. “I think our city manager said it right. We’re an expensive referee.”

Flores says that if an increase in fees for road work doesn’t happen one of these days, the roads will fail, and the Blackhorse residents will not be happy with the bill.

He said to avoid the hassle of assessment increases and further costs toward the neglected roads, Clovis could always take back the streets and lessen the burden on the residents.

The initial release of ballots was set for May 5, with a neighborhood meeting set for the week of May 17 to go over additional financial information. The votes would then be tabulated and declared on June 21.

With concerns from residents and council members on the timing of information distributed to residents, the distribution of ballots is now set for May 19. The votes will now be tabulated and declared on July 12.

The changing in timing still allows for the 45-day minimum needed for a prop 218 vote.

Anthony De Leon
Anthony De Leon is a journalist who started his career in 2017, covering sports for the Fresno City College Rampage, earning his Associate Degree in the process. He then moved on to Fresno State, working for The Collegian serving as Sports Editor, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in print journalism. In August, he will begin attending Reynold’s School of Journalism Master’s program at the University of Nevada, Reno.