Zoning law under microscope as health center eyes Keystone
by James Leonard | Patterson Irrigator
Aug 13, 2009 | 1005 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Del Puerto Health Care District seems to be having trouble deciding what to do next regarding the proposed move of its health center to the Keystone Pacific Business Park.

The Patterson City Council seems equally unsure of how to handle discrepancies between the city’s zoning laws and its development agreement with Keystone, specifically those regarding medical clinics locating in the business park.

The council grappled with that particular subject at its Aug. 4 meeting, eventually voting 3-2 to direct city staff to create a list of the inconsistencies between the two documents before deciding how to take care of them.

The Del Puerto Health Center’s move to Keystone from its current, smaller facility at 1108 Ward Ave. was approved by the Patterson Planning Commission earlier this year. But the district’s current landlord, John Ramos, protested the move and won an appeal with the City Council, which found that medical facilities should not be allowed in the business park.

In the process, it was found that the city’s zoning laws were not very thorough in their language regarding medical clinics in industrial parks. The city’s development agreement with Keystone was more descriptive, but that agreement was argued by both sides whether it forbade medical clinics. The council ultimately decided that it did.

When the council voted to grant Ramos’ appeal and deny the health center entry to Keystone, it also directed staff to look at the two documents and to return with a report. Staff did that for the Aug. 4 meeting but drew the ire of one council member for not identifying the inconsistencies between the two documents.

Councilwoman Annette Smith chided Rod Simpson, the city’s planning director, for suggesting in his report that the council make a decision without knowing the extent to which the documents differ. Simpson defended the report, pointing out that one of the options it suggested included directing staff to compile a full list of the inconsistencies.

Simpson also later indicated that such a process could take a considerable amount of staff time to complete and that a report could not be completed before the next council meeting.

Smith also questioned why taxpayer dollars — in the form of city staff time — should be used to clean up documents that had never been problematic until the health center tried to move to Keystone.

“We’re not the one trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” Smith said. “They are.”

Smith suggested the council should wait until the district applies for a zoning amendment, if that’s ultimately what it chooses to do, and take care of the inconsistencies then. That, or the district should help pay for the process of ironing out the differences between the documents.

Mayor Becky Campo disagreed with Smith on that point.

“In my opinion, it wouldn’t be their responsibility,” Campo said Friday. “They did not create the problem.”

Simpson, City Manager Cleve Morris and Councilman Sam Cuellar each emphasized that the issue of the health center’s move was separate from the discussion about inconsistencies between the zoning law and development agreement. But Smith pressed Simpson on what inconsistencies there were aside from the one regarding medical clinics.

Simpson said there are many items that need to be addressed and that there needs to be clearer language in the zoning ordinance to make it easier for the staff, council and planning commission to make judgments in the future.

Smith eventually made a motion that the staff report back to the council on the inconsistencies between the two documents and what the cost would be to clean them up — and also to look into the possibility of amending the documents as part of the city’s ongoing general plan revision, a lengthy, costly process itself.

That last bit was a sticking point for Cuellar, who was one of two dissenting votes along with Councilwoman Dejeune Shelton.

“We’re going to hold this thing in limbo until the general plan process,” Cuellar said Monday. “I wasn’t very comfortable with that.”

• Contact James Leonard at 892-6187 or james@pattersonirrigator.com.
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