But the health center’s landlord, John Ramos, appealed city staff’s approval of the move shortly thereafter. And so began the controversy.
Ramos challenged the move, saying the city’s zoning laws did not permit a primary care medical facility at the business park. The Patterson Planning Commission denied Ramos’ appeal in February, so Ramos appealed to the City Council.
The debate became fully enflamed during a marathon council meeting in April. Ramos and his attorney argued the move shouldn’t be allowed based on the zoning, while health district officials and board members said the move was necessary to provide quality health care in Patterson. In May, a divided council voted to grant Ramos’ appeal.
Convinced that the council was aligned with Ramos, a group of Patterson residents — including former mayoral candidates Kathy Wright and Luis Molina — joined with the heads of the business park and the health care district in September to submit a ballot initiative that would amend the city’s zoning laws to allow the health center to make its move.
The initiative received an outpouring of support from much of the public but backlash from some council members, who thought the district was going over their heads by opting for an initiative instead of applying for a zoning amendment.
Things heated up further in October, when City Attorney George Logan released his title and summary of the initiative. Logan said the initiative focused more on benefiting Keystone than expanding health care, and he titled it “The Keystone Development Amendment Act” instead of the proponent-suggested title of “The City of Patterson Healthcare Expansion Act.”
The council took Logan’s views to heart in November, when — in a rare unanimous vote on the subject — it approved taking the initiative to court to test its validity and its constitutionality.
That decision was followed by the revelation that, because of the lengthy process that precedes the council deciding whether to adopt the initiative or send it to a ballot, the earliest the vote could take place would be the June elections, which would come after the expiration of the health center’s current lease on March 31.
Only then, amid claims that the health center could be forced to shut its doors if a speedier solution was not reached, did the two sides sit down and begin talking to each other.
As the year’s end approached, there were signs that an agreement might be reached, one that would outline terms so the zoning law could be amended to make the health center an allowed use in the business park.
Details of that agreement, if there ultimately is one, have not yet been made public. But those on both sides have expressed optimism that a solution might be reached and relief that, at last, there appears to be some genuine progress.