Plans for a new animal shelter in a northwest Fresno neighborhood appear over.

“We’re going to get an adequate shelter that will allow us to provide for the animals. That is a win.” — Brenda Mitchell, board president, Fresno Humane Animal Services

However, the shelter currently cramped at the former county morgue now is slated to move to a much larger location just a half-mile away.

And, says Brenda Mitchell, board president of Fresno Humane Animal Services, construction is expected to start on an $8 million facility in 2020.

“We’re going to get an adequate shelter that will allow us to provide for the animals. That is a win,” Mitchell said.

Neighbors Succeed at Blocking Grantland Site

In response to a lawsuit filed by opponents of the proposed northwest location, FHAS sent Fresno County officials a letter announcing the formal withdrawal of its desire to build near Grantland Avenue and Highway 99.

Instead, the county will move its animal control operation using public money, forgoing a privately-funded facility that stirred strong opposition.

“We are no longer interested in pursuing this project,” the one-paragraph, July 25th letter stated. FHAS also asked for a refund of its processing fees on the project.

The land and the building at the northwest location would have been adjacent to a future location of Derrel Ridenour’s namesake business, Derrel’s Mini Storage. Ridenour himself pledged to donate the land and fund construction.

FHAS, which operates the animal shelter on behalf of the county, long has said that the current location is inadequate to properly serve the stray dogs, cats, and other animals it takes in.

“We’re just very sad and disappointed,” Mitchell said about losing the proposed Grantland facility. “It was a dream and would have been fantastic for the whole community.”

She added that the prospect of a long and costly lawsuit led to the decision to scuttle the site.

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‘Forgotten Fresno’ Opposed Shelter Location

After months of community meetings that generated vociferous objections by some residents, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved a zoning change in 2018, which could have paved the way for the new shelter.

But, neighbors already frustrated by growing traffic and lack of accessible roads, barked back. They said the shelter might draw more people to the area, just blocks from their homes. They also expressed concern that the shelter would be near churches and the Herndon-Barstow Elementary School.

“We will never be forgotten again, ever.” — Gonzalo Arias Jr., a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Grantland location

The group, known as Forgotten Fresno, organized and kept the pressure on the county. They sued, challenging the zoning change. That case remains in litigation.

Despite the victory, opponents spoke out again at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

“We will never be forgotten again, ever,” Gonzalo Arias Jr., a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Grantland location, told the board. Other residents in the west of Highway 99 area again cited potential traffic problems because of residential and school construction slated for the region.

Elisa Bilios, another member of Forgotten Fresno and lawsuit plaintiff, said the group has one time contemplated mounting a recall.

“We decided to put our energy toward more positive ways. And in that way, we have gotten to know our neighbors … it’s actually been a blessing in disguise,” she said.

Location of the proposed, but now withdrawn animal shelter. (GV Wire Locator Map/Alexis DeSha)

New, Bigger Animal Shelter on the Way

Even after approving the proposed Grantland location, the county never stopped looking for an alternative site. They have been looking for another site for years.

Last month,  supervisors approved the purchase for nearly $500,000 of property at West Avenue, south of Nielsen Avenue. It is a half-mile from the county’s animal shelter.

The new location will provide nearly 123,000 square feet, much larger than the current facility, Mitchell said.

 

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