Contractor’s yard OK’d north of Woodlake
By Reggie Ellis
woodlake – A Woodlake landowner will be allowed to have a contractor’s storage yard on his property after a neighbor’s appeal was denied for a second time. At its April 4 meeting, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors denied an appeal filed by Robert Matta to shut down his neighbor’s use of his own property as an equipment storage yard near Road 206 and Avenue 352 north of Woodlake.
The property is owned by Bobby Tracy who uses a portion of his 5 acres for his business contracting watering ponds, maintaining dust control and disking for farmers as well as grading roads, mowing and general maintenance of solar farms. The equipment he stores on his property includes four forklifts, two backhoes, five water trucks, two small trenchers, two brush hog attachments, two disking attachments, one pick-up truck and other miscellaneous equipment such as straw wattles, boards for forming concrete, other lumber and wire.
On Feb. 22, the Tulare County Planning Commission unanimously approved a special use permit for Tracy to have the storage yard. Conditions included only allowing that 10 vehicles be stored at one time, that any equipment higher than a 6-foot fence, large equipment such as earth movers may not be stored at any time and that the storage yard cannot comprise more than half of Tracy’s property.
The only new information that Matta presented to the Board that differed from the packet presented to the Planning Commission was an 11th hour letter from his attorney, Richard Harriman. Economic Development Director Mike Washam said staff worked late the night before the meeting to try and address the concerns raised in the letter. Washam said Harriman’s letter cited Tracy’s lack of permits for structures, which Tracy has obtained; the lack of an environmental impact report, which was not required; and the yard’s incompatibility with a seasonal wetland, which was only based on an amatuer’s observance of a few birds.
“The letter makes it appear that the County did not do its due diligence,” Washam told the Supervisors. “That is not the case.”
Matta said this might seem like a neighbor vs neighbor dispute but his issue with the yard is about the quality of life for himself, other residents and future residents living near the yard. Matta said all of the properties in the rural neighborhood are zoned for agriculture use and are governed by a set of restrictions similar to covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) commonly found in a homeowner’s association. Matta said Tracy’s storage yard violates these rules which have been in place since the property was subdivided into 5-acre parcels 40 years ago. He described Tracy’s use of the property as a nuisance and “not conducive to the residential nature of the neighborhood.” Matta said even people who signed letters in support of the project all face open ag land, orchards or the front of Tracy’s house, but his property faces the large equipment stored behind the house.
“Having a home surrounded by ag land is something you aren’t going to find anymore,” Matta said. “And once we do this, it’s gone.”
Supervisor Amy Shuklian asked what Matta’s “ideal remedy” would be. Matta said he was somewhat embarrassed that this dispute had “risen to this level” and wanted to sit down with Tracy and County staff to come to an amenable arrangement.
“This is not the level we should be dealing with it. We should be dealing with this at the RMA level,” Matta said, referring to the County’s planning and land division known as the Resource Management Agency.
Supervisor Steve Worthley motioned to deny Matta’s appeal because the County does not enforce CCRs from homeowner’s associations and stated that Tracy’s property was not causing a nuisance just because he disagreed with the way his neighbor uses property.
“From a legal standpoint, the law does not give those kind of rights to Mr. Matta on someone else’s property,” Worthley said.
The motion was seconded by Shuklian and passed unanimously.