Reedley acts on firework citations, development permits

Reedley City Council approves the first reading of two ordinances aimed at improving development, policing services

(Kenny Goodman)
(Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published March 29, 2024  • 
11:00 am

REEDLEY – The city of Reedley worked proactively to address specific challenges locals face by introducing two new ordinances to the city council; one supports the development planning process and the other helps law enforcement officers cite firework safety violations. 

These two ordinances would establish new policies that could improve the quality of life in the city and keep up with the city’s efforts to be business-friendly. The Reedley City Council passed the first reading of each ordinance at the March 26 council meeting on a 3-0 vote; Mayor Anita Betancourt and Councilmember Mary Fast were absent. 

Per city and state policy, the ordinances will be adopted after they pass a second reading, and then they will take effect 30 days after that. 

Entitlement permit extension

Community Development Director Rodney Horton introduced an ordinance that will implement a 24-month entitlement permit extension program to grant developers more leeway in the timing of their construction projects. 

In the world of development, entitlements are permissions granted to developers to build in a specific place and manner. Entitlement permits include conditional use permits, variance applications, site plan review applications and land division applications. 

Developers submit these applications to the city and the city planning commission for approval; once approved, they typically have a one-year period in which the application is good for, and then the approval expires. 

“What we are hearing from our partners in the development community is that they’re dealing with seriously high, historic inflation, high interest rates and also dealing with labor issues in the construction field that’s causing some projects to be delayed,” Horton said. 

The ordinance would pause the clock on entitlement permit expirations for all applications that became effective on or after Jan. 1, 2022. The pause would last for two years, and when it ends, the clock would start back up where it left off for each entitlement permit.

For example, a permit that currently has nine months until it expires would retain that timeframe, and then once the extension outlined in the ordinance is over, the expiration clock on those nine months would begin. 

“Sure, you can always apply or request an extension of that entitlement permit application, but the problem is, it’s at the discretion of the approving body,” Horton said. “So what we want to do is acknowledge the situation for the development community is what it is, and given the uncertainties with the economy, we want to show our effort as a business-friendly city by proposing this program.”

Horton said the Reedley Planning Commission unanimously approved the ordinance at its meeting on March 7 after hearing no public comment on the proposal. 

The ordinance will take effect 30 days after its adoption on second reading at the April 9 council meeting, and it will expire on April 9, 2026.

Councilmember Suzanne Byers commended Horton and city staff for the work on the ordinance and said she hopes developers will look favorably on Reedley.

Firework citations

Police Division Commander Hector Aleman introduced the second ordinance, which will amend the Reedley Municipal Code to allow law enforcement officers to issue citations to property owners or lessees of properties where firework violations occur. 

Aleman explained to the council that California classifies fireworks into “safe and sane” fireworks that are legal for individuals to buy and use, and dangerous fireworks that are illegal to sell, buy, possess or use within the state. 

Police and fire personnel are able to issue citations to individuals who violate these firework laws, but in order to do so, they have to catch the violators in the act or find a witness who is willing to fully cooperate both during the investigation and throughout a later period, Aleman said. 

This makes it challenging for law enforcement officers to deter and punish the use of illegal fireworks, which can cause property damage, severe personal injury, start fires and disturb neighborhoods.

As an example, Aleman said that officers are often able to identify where a firework was set off, such as at a party, but if they do not know who exactly set off the firework, they cannot do anything about it. With the new ordinance, they will be able to cite property owners or renters of the location where the firework was used.

“We believe that by doing so we’ll be able to enforce the actual issuing of citations more, which will decrease the use of the fireworks,” Aleman said. “But the secondary effect is once the general public becomes aware that they can be held liable and cited, they’re going to turn into our allies, because they don’t want to get cited for something they didn’t do.” 

Aleman said that on July 4, 2023, the department received 35 calls regarding the use of dangerous fireworks and was only able to issue 22 citations. 

Firework “hot spots” are near the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, but Aleman said they are set off in the city throughout the year, which also causes concern from neighbors who hear the fireworks and think something bad is happening. 

Byers said she was relieved to see the department addressing this. 

“I’m sorry that we’re going to have to pin the property owners or the lessees, but as you said, they can become our allies and they will want to help to get to the bottom of it,” Byers said.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter