Reedley gets in the ‘zone’ with recent code updates

Reedley City Council hears update on upcoming regulation changes aiming to create more business-friendly environment; updates ready for public review

Reedley Community Development Director Rodney Horton discusses development impact fees at a meeting of the Reedley Planning Commission Aug. 3, 2023. (Serena Bettis)
Reedley Community Development Director Rodney Horton discusses development impact fees at a meeting of the Reedley Planning Commission Aug. 3, 2023. (Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published May 7, 2024  • 
10:00 am

REEDLEY – In its latest effort to be as business-friendly as possible, the city is close to adopting comprehensive updates to the Reedley Zoning Code and Subdivision Regulations.

Community Development Director Rodney Horton and City Planner Ellen Moore presented an update on the updates to the Reedley City Council at its April 23 meeting. Both documents are in the final stages of review by the city attorney and within the next few months, the Reedley Planning Commission and city council will conduct public hearings to adopt the new Zoning Code and Subdivision Regulations.

“We’re pretty happy to finally see these projects that have kind of sat in our shop for the last couple of years start to march out and make its way to the council,” Horton said. “So we just wanted to showcase where we have been and then show where we’re currently at and what the next steps are.” 

Horton said the zoning code update began in January 2022, and with the help of consultant Mintier Harnish, the city has reviewed existing development conditions and zoning trends, studied new state laws, conducted stakeholder interviews and solicited public input, all to understand what the update needs to include. 

The city’s purpose in doing this update was to become compliant with housing laws passed in the state legislature over the last five years, get up-to-date on economic development initiatives spearheaded by the city council and to ultimately make it easier to approve development and business activity. 

“The story of our zoning code update is essentially we want to be able to get to ‘yes’ faster,” Horton said. “The current ordinance — it’s a common criticism that we hear — is a bit too restrictive. … So it’s all about being able to get to ‘yes’ faster; that, we believe, makes Reedley a business-friendly community, so that’s the crux of it.” 

One of the main changes, based on comments received from stakeholders, was that too many projects and entitlement applications are required to get approval from the planning commission when they could instead be handled by city staff, Horton said. Having applications go through the planning commission is costly and time-consuming, and while the city still has to have certain applications be approved by either the commission or the council, there are others that staff can approve instead. 

Horton said the goal with that is to “try to implement the vision of the community and the council at the staff level.” Included in that update is an additional appeal process, so that if the community development director denies an application, a developer can appeal that decision to the planning commission. Planning commission decisions are also appealable to the city council. 

The zoning code update will expand certain by-right uses to help streamline the application process as well, such as allowing car washes to operate in commercial and office zones without obtaining conditional use permits. Other changes intended to make the process easier for developers includes reducing parking space requirements for housing developments from 3.5 spaces to two spaces and extending the expiration of a permit approval from one year to two years.

Smoke shops, labs and more

While the Zoning Code and Subdivision Regulations have many updates, Horton and Moore focused their discussion on the items they felt would be most important to the council and community. They spoke in greater detail about adjustments to home occupation permits, research and development uses, smoke shops and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). 

The updated research and development uses and smoke shop regulations are similar to those passed through urgency ordinances that the council has instituted in the last year. The regulations restrict the zones in which research labs or smoke shops can be located, dictates how far away from “sensitive areas,” such as parks and schools, the businesses can be and requires developers to hold a neighborhood meeting before they even submit permit applications to the city. 

Horton said that the city will be largely doing away with its previous home occupation permit requirements because it recognizes that the detailed, costly process was unnecessary for most home businesses. Additionally, previous city regulations focused on home daycares, which are now fully regulated by the state.

“Typically what happens now, someone comes to our counter and says ‘I have a business that I want to do outside of my house,’ or ‘I have a lawn care business and I’m only going to be using the home to store my equipment and do my paperwork and taxes,’ et cetera,” Horton said. 

These changes bring the home occupation permit process cost down from $200 to about $27, Horton said. 

“We respect and understand that a lot of businesses that eventually grow and become the backbone of a community all start in a garage, in a bedroom, on someone’s kitchen table or dining room table, so we don’t want to hinder that,” Horton said. 

Moore spoke about changes to the ADU permitting process, which she said are largely dictated by new state laws. The changes are primarily focused on making it easier for property owners to build ADUs, such as removing owner-occupancy and parking requirements and reducing setback requirements. 

Within Reedley, Moore said that ADUs are becoming more popular, but they are still not very common. For example, she said that in 2023, the city received a total of five ADU applications; in the last four months, they have received another five ADU applications. 

“So we are now at where however many we had last year in total for the entire year,” Moore said. “It’s still five, that’s still kind of low and probably not as many as the state wants to see, but it is something that is becoming a more popular option for homeowners.” 

The full public review drafts of the Zoning Code and Subdivision Regulations are available under the “major projects” section of the community development department’s page on the city website.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter