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Planning Commissioners Felt Threatened by Opponents of NW Fresno Care Home

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Fresno Planning Commissioner DJ Criner took offense to an opposition letter, calling it "unacceptable." (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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Despite strong opposition to permitting a patient nursing facility in a northwest Fresno neighborhood, the planning commission approved a modified version of the plan Wednesday night.

Infinite Living plans to build a 24-hour acute respiratory care home — for bedridden patients with a tracheotomy or on a ventilator — at 2287 W. Bullard Ave. in a residential neighborhood.

The original plan called for modifying the 3,300-square-foot residence on the property and adding two buildings for a total of 54 beds. The improvements would also include a parking lot and lighting.

Several neighbors voiced opposition at a hearing in July, and through dozens of emails. Objections included noise, traffic, and public safety.

Commissioner Kathy Bray offered an alternate approval — allow one additional building instead of two. The commission agreed on a 5-0 vote, with Brad Hardie abstaining and Haley Wagner absent.

But one opposition letter went too far, two commissioners said.

Some northwest Fresno residents opposed allowing this residence to become part of a 24-hour acute respiratory care home that would include other buildings. (City of Fresno)

Commissioners Say Opposition Letter Threatened Them

During the debate, commissioners DJ Criner and Bray said they felt threatened by comments made in a letter objecting to the project.

Jim and Kitty Burden wrote they live a half-block from the proposed facility.

“Whoever votes yes on this project will be remembered and replaced ASAP. This IS OUR BACKYARD, and we will not forget if you vote in favor of violating our zoning laws,” the Burdens wrote.

Criner took offense, calling the letter “unacceptable.”

“Threats are not something that should be taken lightly. And there is a responsibility that we have up here. But there is also a responsibility that I believe that you all have as our community,” Criner said from the dais.

“Many of us are not easily shaken. As the smallest, skinniest person on this platform, I’ll tell you, you can’t shake people that have already been shaken but have never felt fallen. God bless you,” Criner said, somewhat facetiously as he is not a small, skinny person. He is the pastor of St. Rest Baptist church.

Bray said she knows the Burdens.

“The person who wrote that, I considered a friend of mine at one time. I haven’t seen them in a while, but it was personally hurtful to be threatened like that,” Bray said.

GV Wire sent a message to Jim Burden seeking comment about the letter but did not hear back before the publication of this story.

Karbassi Appealed Earlier Approval

Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi, who represents the area, appealed the initial planning department approval, on June 2.

“I am concerned about the impacts to the neighborhood,” Karbassi wrote.

Smittcamp AG Enterprises President Brent Smittcamp was one of several people to send in letters of opposition.

“This proposal and potentiality for change to the neighborhood is an unacceptable alteration of the residential character of our neighborhood,” Smittcamp wrote in June.

Andrew Wanger, an attorney and de facto leader of the opposition, said the planning commission’s decision “was legally unsound.”

“It’s not the appropriate lot for this operation. I understand the need or the stated need for these types of facilities, but I believe there are available spaces within a mile where zoning is such that they don’t need to alter the zoning for the property,” Wanger, son of famed former federal judge Oliver Wanger, said.

Brian Whelan, a partner with Infinite Care, praised the approval.

“We are grateful for the diligence, hard work, and thoughtfulness of both city staff and the planning commissioners. We look forward to making this project a reality,” Whelan said.

The approval could still be appealed to the city council by Karbassi or Mayor Jerry Dyer.

A rendering of a residential care facility proposed in northwest Fresno that is opposed by some neighbors. (City of Fresno)

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email