Dollar general withdraws project in Lindsay
The developer proposing to demolish a unique building in Lindsay to build a discount retail chain withdrew the project last week.
At its April 9 meeting, Lindsay City Planner Bill Zigler told the City Council that Embree Asset Group pulled its proposed project to demolish the Central California Citrus Exchange (CCCE) building at the corner of Mirage Avenue and Hermosa Street to make way for new Dollar General store. Zigler said the developer withdrew from the project because they were concerned about litigation and that the scope of the project was not large enough to absorb court fees.
“The developer attempted to negotiate with the attorney threatening litigation and could come to no agreement, so it was safest financially for them to step away,” Zigler said.
Attorney Richard Harriman, representing Lindsay Advocates for Responsive Government (LARGo), submitted a letter dated March 11 requesting the City Council deny the Site Plan Review and reject Dollar General’s plan to demolish the building because “Staff has provided erroneous information (which is not substantial evidence) to your Council … regarding a number of issues that are relevant and necessary for your Council to consider during your deliberations and exercise of your discretion …”
Harriman wrote that the Council should not make any decision on the project until the issues are resolved under the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA). The issues listed were inaccurate air quality designation, failure to analyze hazardous materials emissions from the demolition of the building, failure to consider traffic safety hazards, an outdated General Plan and accompanying environmental im impact report, possible impacts to an adjacent historical building in the old Lindsay Hospital and inaccurate information regarding the historical significance of the building.
Harriman’s letter threatened litigation if the City Council did not direct staff to “issue a demolition, grading, or building permit for the General Dollar project; and remand the environmental and administrative review to City Staff with direction to require Applicant to retain an independent consultant to prepare an accurate Historic Preservation Survey and remedy the other defects in the environmental and General Plan review documents and to commence an update of the City General Plan.”
LARGo member and Lindsay resident Trudy Wischemann did her own historical study of the building. Wischemann, who has a master’s degree in Environmental Planning from University of California-Berkeley, conducted a study which questioned the 46-page inspection report by Valley Wide Home Inspections presented to the Lindsay City Council at the Feb. 26 and March 12 meetings.
Wischemann stated there are no dollar figures given for repairs, contrary to the staff statements that it would be too costly to repair. Wischemann writes that most of the damages consist of cracks in the sidewalks, pavement, stucco and plaster, difficult windows to open, plumbing overdue for replacement, upgrading of the electrical system required, ADA-compliant solutions needed, water damage from leaks.
Wischemann thanked everyone for “the discussion of the proposal” during the public comment period.
“I’ll be working with many people to help bring life to that corner,” Wischemann said.
Wischemann also asked Chris Brewer, Tulare County historian and curator of the Exeter Historical Museum, to evaluate the historical significance of the building. In a letter, which was not sent to the City of Linsday, Brewer said there was “a good chance of getting a determination of eligibility or submitting a successful nomination to the National Register” for the 78-year-old building. He said, in his opinion, the building qualified for the National Register of Historic Places on three separate criteria.
Brewer said the building is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past. The Citrus Exchange building is a representative work of a master architect, William Ache, who designed several significant buildings already listed on the National Register, including the Palisades Wing of the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.
Brewer went on to state the building embodies the distinctive characteristics of the late Mission Revival era, citing Ache’s “unique use of Moorish influences in its tower and other feathers.” More importantly, Brewer said the building meets the first criteria for “Properties that are associated with events that have made significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. Brewer said the history of the Citrus Exchange and the development of the citrus industry in Lindsay and California are well represented in the property
“This property was perhaps the single most important building for the citrus industry in Tulare County during the 1930s through 1960s,” Brewer stated.
In his letter, Brewer suggested the City contract a professional architectural historian, certified by one of the state’s regional centers or by any of a number of state or federal agencies, to evaluate the building in a professional manner.
Zigler said the scope of the project did not require a CEQA review, meaning that the project did not require an Environmental Impact Report because it was consistent with the “central commercial” zoning of the property, land use elements of the City’s General Plan and that the building does not have any historical significance under the law.
“I am comfortable with the work we did on it,” Zigler said.
Zigler said Lindsay lost more than just a new development, bur rather a project with a long list of public improvements. In addition to the store, Embree Asset Group proposed to build 47 parking spaces for the downtown area, street improvements along north Mirage, pedestrian bulb outs at the intersection or Mirage Avenue and Hermosa Street, storm drain improvements and curb and gutter and landscaping along Hermosa.
“The citizens will pay for that,” Zigler said. “The developer was going to pay for that.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Salinas asked if there was any chance the developer could possibly revisit the location of the CCCE.
“Not with the threat of litigation,” Zigler said.
Zigler told the City Council Dollar General will likely still build in Lindsay but they would probably make less improvements at an alternate site after attempting to incorporate CCCE’s Spanish Eclectic style elements and installing a bronze plaque commemorating the Citrus Exchange building near the original building site.
“They now have the ability to build a square metal building and are only required to provide 12 parking spaces for the size of the project,” Zigler said. “The development will still likely come to Lindsay, but instead of replicating features they have the ability to build a square metal building,” Zigler said. “That’s the result of this project being gone.”