Sanger council stalemate delays land expansion meant for housing

Concerns from Sanger City Council members over water availability in current, future housing developments puts a pause on land annexation process

City of Sanger City Hall as seen from sidewalk near Civic Center sign on Seventh St. (Kenny Goodman)
City of Sanger City Hall as seen from sidewalk near Civic Center sign on Seventh St. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published July 11, 2023  • 
2:00 pm

SANGER – The process of annexing land into Sanger’s city limits, which is currently a spot the city has in its sights for housing development, has been delayed after the approving vote from Sanger City Council hit a standstill.

Sanger Mayor Frank Gonzalez’s absence from the council meeting Thursday, July 6, resulted in a tied 2-2 vote on a resolution to initiate annexation procedures with the Fresno County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). This would annex land at the southwest corner of North Avenue and Greenwood Avenue from Fresno County into Sanger city limits. 

The land is the desired site for the Somerset Residential Community Project that is still in the early stages of planning and development; however, Councilmembers Esmeralda Hurtado and Dolores Melendez voted against the resolution and Ordinance 2023-06, a pre-annexation zoning ordinance for parcels near the development site. This was due to concerns about the city’s ability to adequately deliver water to new and current homes.

“I know this is going to proceed and move forward, but my stance remains the same,” Hurtado said. “I do not believe we should be building homes in the city of Sanger when our water source is not reliable and when we’re in the middle of the process of connecting the city to the unincorporated community of Tombstone.”

City council will revisit Ordinance No. 2023-06 and Resolution 2023-36 at its next meeting on July 20 when all council members will be present to vote on the issue and avoid a tie.

On May 4, Hurtado asked about wells on the proposed development site and the developers plans for bringing water to the area. She said she did not want to move forward on any housing development without knowing if the city can properly supply water to the area or not; however, it was mentioned that the developers were also concerned about water availability and will have to demonstrate at a later stage that they can sufficiently provide the housing development with water and not impose a burden on the city’s system before beginning construction.

At the May meetings, Councilmember Michael Montelongo and Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Martinez both mentioned California’s housing crisis and their belief that the city will be able to accommodate growth. 

“A lot of people out there need homes and this is certainly a drop in the bucket, but I hope it continues and I hope other developers see that Sanger is ready to support them,” Martinez said at the July 6 meeting.

Resolution 2023-36, the request to initiate annexation procedures, stems from a proposed housing development that was first presented to council in May by Sanger Community Development director David Brletic and builders from San Joaquin Valley Homes. 

At the council meeting on May 4, Brletic and San Joaquin Valley Homes co-founder Jim Robinson explained the plans for the development and the steps they need to take in the planning and approval process. The ordinances brought to council in May and again on July 6 were strictly about zoning, annexation and an initial environmental study.

The developers have numerous other requirements they must meet before beginning construction on the proposed project and Brletic said that council’s approval of the zoning and annexation would allow them to continue with the planning and approval process.

In May, Sanger City Council approved Ordinance No. 2023-05, which designated pre-annexation zoning for three land parcels and adopted the Mitigated Negative Declaration. This is a type of finding from an initial environmental study, for the Somerset project. 

Pre-annexation zoning allows the city to change the zoning designation of an area before the land is annexed so that it is ready for the proposed development once the annexation process is finished. The Mitigated Negative Declaration states that an initial study determined the development will have some environmental impact that can be maintained with specific mitigation measures. A more in-depth environmental impact report will be conducted in later stages of the development process.

The development site, which is located south of North Avenue, east of Bethel Avenue and west of Greenwood Avenue in Sanger, is currently zoned as exclusive and thin agricultural use in Fresno County, Brletic said. The ordinance passed in May changed the zoning to include single-family residential districts, low density multifamily residential districts and a recreation, schools and conservation zoned district. 

Robinson said the plan for the development is to include a 10 acre park with a pond and 490 house lots — 196 larger lots in the single-family residentially zoned areas and 294 smaller lots in the low density multifamily residentially zoned areas.

Ordinance No. 2023-06 brought to council July 6 would adopt another pre-annexation zoning designation for two adjacent land parcels that are not part of the planned development, but are required to be annexed along with the other land. Those parcels would be changed from exclusive agriculture use to single family residential but would not be developed.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter