You are hereDENNIS BACOPULOS: The facts about Friant Ranch

DENNIS BACOPULOS: The facts about Friant Ranch

Posted at 12:00 AM on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011

For more than 90 years, the Bigelow/Silkwood family has owned Friant Ranch, a 942-acre cattle ranch next to the town of Friant. Friant is one of Fresno County's oldest towns, settled in 1852.

Located next to the San Joaquin River, Lake Millerton and other recreational amenities, Friant has struggled through the years to realize its potential as a gateway to recreation.

In 1992, Fresno County approved the Friant Redevelopment Plan to address blighted conditions, encourage housing opportunities and provide much needed public improvements. Even with this plan in place, with no significant project to contribute to Friant's potential, Friant has languished the past 50 years, despite many wonderful local residents who wish to see Friant prosper.

In an effort to revitalize this historic town, the family has proposed Friant Ranch, an active adult retirement community to serve the growing population of adults 55 years or older in a lifestyle-enriched community.

The county's active adult population is projected to grow by 59% this decade. There are no other active adult lifestyle communities in the Valley.

Currently, Fresno is losing many retirees, along with their wisdom and investment, to other areas, such as Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Many people would choose to stay in Fresno to be close to friends and family if an active adult lifestyle community were available.

Unlike leapfrog rural development, Friant Ranch expands one of the county's oldest towns and embraces the "smart growth" principles of the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint. Friant Ranch will contain a Village Center and 2,500 homes in clustered neighborhoods at 6.6 units/acre with authentic regional architecture and 13 miles of neighborhood public pedestrian/bicycle trails and electric vehicle lanes.

It includes a multipurpose transportation corridor on a railroad easement spanning Friant with two community transportation stations linking Friant with the Millerton Lake/Table Mountain recreation areas and the Fresno/Clovis areas. This transportation corridor may one day be the basis for a light rail line connecting Friant/Millerton with the Fresno/Clovis areas.

Construction of Friant Ranch will employ 660 workers annually over the 10-year build out, potentially creating a total of $264 million in employee income and a positive contribution to the county's budget of $2.6 million annually.

Friant Ranch establishes a comprehensive open space rangeland protection plan. The 942-acre land plan preserves more than 460 acres of permanent on-site open space, almost half of the entire ranch, and 1,060 acres of off-site rangeland open space.

This totals more than 1,500 acres of open space rangeland set aside in perpetuity through conservation easements to preserve cattle grazing as well as habitat areas including vernal pools, tiger salamander and fairy shrimp habitat. In May 2010, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a nonjeopardy Biological Opinion approving Friant Ranch as fully mitigating its environmental impacts.

A new tertiary wastewater treatment facility, fully funded by Friant Ranch, will serve Friant Ranch and the Friant community. This may allow for the elimination of the existing aging septic systems and leech fields that now serve the community.

Many assertions about Friant Ranch have been made in recent articles that are not factual, including that treated effluent will be discharged into the San Joaquin River. Friant Ranch will not discharge any wastewater to the San Joaquin River. All effluent will be discharged and reused for project landscape and agricultural irrigation on an existing gravel mine south of Lost Lake Park.

This irrigation use will allow for restoration of farmland on an existing highly degraded mining pit. Wastewater treatment facilities will not be visible from Friant Road or Lost Lake Park.

For more than five years, Fresno County has reviewed the impacts of Friant Ranch on the environment and community conducting technical studies and required environmental analysis. After this comprehensive review, both the county Planning Department staff and Fresno County Planning Commission recommended approval of Friant Ranch.

Friant Ranch is the right project at the right time.

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