Rezoning request, variance voted down by commissioners

By Jack King

Zoning issues and a discussion of growth in Clovis dominated much of Thursday’s City Commission meeting.
The commissioners unanimously voted down a request by Joseph Riccardi of Portales to rezone property at 600 W. 14th St. in Clovis from a single family to a multi-family residential designation.

Planning Administrator Louis Gordon said 20 percent of neighborhood residents said they oppose the rezoning. About 10 people attended the commission meeting to speak against it.

Riccardi and architect Paul Reed told the commission Riccardi had made numerous changes in the development to conform to concerns raised by area residents. But several commissioners said they were concerned about the way the proposed apartment complex would affect traffic in the area and the residents said the complex would change the character of the neighborhood.

“An entrance on Mitchell at that spot is a real hazard,” said Commissioner Catherine Haynes.

Craig Anderson, who said he has lived in the area for 13 years, called it “a slow, peaceful neighborhood.” Traffic on Westchester Avenue, in the area, would change that character, he said.

“Clovis needs growth,” Anderson told the commissioners. “Clovis needs controlled, thoughtful growth. Mayor Lansford is at the helm of a ship I don’t think he knew would go this fast. As his crew your responsibility is to guide that ship carefully.”

Mark Harper told the commissioners their decision was a matter of public trust.

“You have to set a precedent,” he told them. “If we don’t put a foot down with growth we’re going to have a mess.”

The commissioners also turned down a variance request from Wandel Massey at 221 York Drive. Massey had requested the commission approve an enclosed swimming pool on his property that violates setback requirements.
Gordon told the commissioners the city Planning and Zoning Commission had already turned down Massey’s variance request. Massey requested the variance after the pool was built and the construction still does not have a building permit, because inspectors never received a copy of the plans for the work.

Massey told the commissioners he had not known about the setback requirements and did not realize the contractor for the job did not have a license to do the work.
But City Manager Raymond Mondragon said city workers had sent Massey information on the requirements and had had at least one conference with him in the manager’s office.

“Somehow,” said Mayor David Lansford, “the city has got to communicate to people that before they build something they’ve got to get a permit. The permitting process comes first.”

The commission approved an ordinance that covered a number of zoning issues, including density requirements for apartments and for rear yard setbacks for detached garages in single family lots — but not before a similar discussion of growth.

Commissioners approved a request by Commissioner Randy Crowder to amend the ordinance to direct that detached garages built within 5 feet of rear property lines not be built too near power lines.

But they turned down a request from audience member Harper that they table, and reconsider, the whole ordinance. The density levels allowed under the ordinance raised the question, “How close together would you want to live?” he said.

Crowder explained that previous density requirements forced apartment builders to buy too much land for a complex, then use the surplus as a barrier.
“If we have a ratio of parking, landscaping and retention of water, then why buy a lot of extra land and let it lie?” he asked.

“What it is is a matter of public trust,” Harper replied. “We live in a wide open area. Why not build a litter farther out?”
Harper said too much density resulted in problems with run-off, parking, access and other issues.
“I’m not against growth. What I’m against is stacking us on top of each other,” he said.