Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Millerton New Town - More sprawl, coming soon!

The Fresno Bee recently gave an update about a proposed new city by Millerton Lake, ingeniously known as "Millerton New Town". This development has struggled to get going since the 1980's, and the developer, Bonadelle, has finally decided that the time is right to start bulldozing the rural landscape to built new subdivisions.

This is leap-frog development inducing new sprawl in a beautiful rural area, and what does the developer have to say about that?

"This is a little different than talking about urban sprawl where you just build out from the fringes of the city and keep going," Ewell said."

Um...what? That's exactly what they're doing!

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Grading has already been done, and google earth shows that this work was actually completed over 6 years ago

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Does that location look like the sustainable home for 10,000 new people?

Here you see the one and only access road, Friant.

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Now the developer makes two ridiculous claims about the traffic inducing nature of the development:

1) It's aimed at retirees, so they won't be commuting to Fresno
and
2)
"His vision always has been a self-sufficient community where residents don't have to leave the foothills to shop or go to school, meaning smog-producing traffic would be minimal."

Let's look at how little sense these two comments make.

Note: The area is not served by transit, and never will be.

1) Why would someone want to retire in a car dependent exurb? Hospitals? 30 minute drive. Doctor? 30 minute drive. Friends and family? 30 minute drive. As people get old, they lose their ability to drive, and they become more reliant on doctors. Putting old people in an isolated rural subdivision? Bad idea. And assuming these are wealthy retirees, don't they want to dine at nice restaurants? Those are in Fresno. Don't they want upscale shopping? Fresno.

2) A self-sufficient community? So much laughter. 2,800 homes may be able to support a supermarket, a CVS, a few nail salons and chinese take-out....but people want more. People want to shop at Target, Best Buy, Costco, etc, none of which will EVER locate in a community of that size (they require much larger customer bases). People want a Cinema and bowling alley. People want a large selection of restaurants.

So residents will have to drive for 30 minutes, through the only road, which is used by those heading to the lake for recreation, or passing through to the national parks. That means congestion.

And the future supermarket, library, pharmacy, elementary school etc? The people who will end up working there won't move into an expensive rural suburb. They're going to live in Fresno. And every single one of them will have to drive in that one road. The idea that the retirees will be so self-sufficient that they will be busing tables at a small chinese restaurant is hilarious.

So the idea that traffic will be minimal, when residents will be required to drive to Fresno to go to the stores they want, and the restaurants they want, and the doctors they need, AND on top of that the low wage service employees will have to drive to the community to stock shelves, sort books and sweep floors.....is ludicrous. Did I mentioned the gardeners, plumbers, contractors etc? They don't live near Millerton lake, they live in Fresno.


The next ridiculous idea is that the development is unique and will sell.

"Although the current real estate market is soft, Bonadelle said the unique rural feel of his community offers a niche that is more immune to economic downturn.

"It looks like something out of central Italy here. You have the rolling hills, the oak trees and the rocks," he said. "It's a little valley that we've built this neighborhood in."

There's nothing rural about a 2,800 tract development. It's rural now, but once the homes are up, it will look just like Fresno or Clovis.

And note this line:

"The project, which will sit next to the smaller, half-built Brighton Crest community"

Someone else has already started building stuff there, years ago. The project wasn't completed because of the lack of demand.

It's a shame that the developer is looking to profit by sticking thousands of people in a place that can't support them, with the assumption that the county and state will eventually drop millions in taxpayer money to fix the problems the community created (traffic, water issues).

And it's a crime that the county approved the project, and threw out every plan and guide that supposedly was written to stop this kind of damaging sprawl. general plan? Not when short-term money is involved.

Hopefully demand is so low for these homes that after the first 100 or so are built, the developer is forced to abandon the project.

By the way, you know how online article comments are usually filled with complete idiocy? It's interesting to note that for this article, commentators are strongly against the project and point out many of the flaws. And they're not NIIMBY's, as the location is isolated and thus has few neighbors. These are people in Fresno that realize the plan is enormously screwed up.

Fresno Bee article:

Local section
Bonadelle breaks ground at Millerton New Town
Lake development has seen decades of delays.
Posted at 11:07 PM on Thursday, Jun. 02, 2011
By Kurtis Alexander / The Fresno Bee

http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/06/02/2412754/bonadelle-breaks-ground-at-millerton.html#disqus_thread

4 comments:

  1. Great post James. You hit the nail on the head with this great article. I personally agree with you wholeheartedly.

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  2. I just cannot understand the sense behind this kind of development. In my city, Adelaide, in Australia, the Government owns the fringe land and works cooperatively to release parcels ONLY according to demand - even then, we have a metropolitan growth boundary and once the land runs out, that's it - already, developers have been encouraged / forced to develop infill sites and raise density along transit corridors.

    Why cities in the US allow this nonsense I have no idea. It's what happens when the market is left to it's own damned devices.

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  3. Dan, thats exactly how it should work here. We have zoning for a reason. It should be kept agricultural with no exceptions.

    And yeah, the free market doesnt pay for the long term damage, so we need the regulation to stop it.

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