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City, FUSD create inconvenient reality for McLane convenience store owner

GeorgeByline

The only practical judgment on the latest Fresno City Hall land-use controversy falls into one of two camps:

1.) The city has dramatically changed its philosophy for regulating the sale of alcohol …

or …

2.) A lot of powerful officials got befuddled.

At issue is a neighborhood market in the shadow of McLane High School in central Fresno.

The business owner wants to sell beer and wine. His store is within 270 feet of the school. Officials from the state on down don’t want liquor sales within 600 feet of a school. The owner, with the help of one of Fresno’s best development consultants, asked the Planning Commission for help. The commissioners last month gave the owner a special permit to sell the booze.

No one – not the mayor, not the city manager, not the City Council, not the planning department staff, not the Police Department, not Fresno Unified School District, not the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, not the commissioners themselves – came close to breaking a sweat in protest.

I take that back. Commissioner Randy Reed voted against the permit request. Reed was the Lone Wolf.

The Quick Mart on the southeast corner of Cedar and Clinton avenues, will soon be selling beer and wine

Dirk Poeschel, the talented and experienced consultant who came to the rescue of owner Gurvinder Ghuman, said the deal is a win-win for Fresno.

Yes, Poeschel told me Monday afternoon at his downtown office, the issue at first glance was full of conflicting principles. But, he added, “you have to give people a reason to say yes.” Poeschel, as we shall see, found common ground.

But that ground is shifting.

Officials at Fresno Unified said they were stunned to learn of the commission’s action. They say they sent a letter of opposition. They say the letter, by itself, should have been enough to kill Ghuman’s request.

Fresno Unified officials said they didn’t learn of the commission’s action until Monday, 26 days after the fact, when I told them. These officials say they’re not happy with City Hall.

The Swearengin Administration isn’t happy, either. City Manager Bruce Rudd on Tuesday told me he will ask the City Council to debate once again how Fresno might regulate alcohol sales near protected institutions such as schools and places of worship.

“We need to have that conversation,” Rudd said. “The school districts need to be there, too.”

One thing is certain – just about everyone’s mind got fogged up on this one.

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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