Hanford strikes $12.5mil settlement with Helena Agri-Enterprises

The vote caps a lengthy, multi-year process to settle a dispute over the location of the fertilizer producer’s operations in relationship to the city’s Costco.

The City of Hanford has agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement with Helena Agri-Enterprises on Tuesday, putting an end to a lawsuit spanning several years and potentially saving the city tens of millions of dollars over a set of disputed land deals. 

The Hanford City Council unanimously voted to approve the $12.5 million settlement. Helena was seeking $38 million in damages plus interest and attorneys fees, which could have cost the city over $50 million if a jury sided with the agricultural company. 


Hanford will pay $7.5 million to Helena within the next 30 days and the remaining $5 million split over a four year period starting in March 2024. 

The backstory: Hanford and Helena entered into a memorandum of understanding in 2014 to exchange Helena’s property on Lacy Blvd. for property in the Kings Industrial Park. The MOU discussed the possibility of the city paying for Helena’s relocation costs, which were later identified to be $14.6 million. The MOU never progressed as both sides were unable to negotiate terms and reach an agreement. 

  • Two years later, the city agreed to sell the same property in the Kings Industrial Park to Helena. Escrow lasted several months before the city terminated the deal, leading Helena to file a lawsuit in 2017 for breach of contract. 
  • With the trial set to begin on Feb. 6, the city and Helena held mediation last Friday to draw up the settlement. 

The lawsuit: A major part of the lawsuit centers on allegations that the city effectively played favorites with Costco and Fresno developer John Kashian. 

  • In 2012, Kashain proposed a mixed-use development on a 58-acre piece of farmland on E. Lacey Blvd near Highway 198 and Highway 43, which would consist of nearly 500,000 square feet of retail space and additional space for an apartment complex. The Costco development was also involved with the proposal. The site of Kashian’s proposal is directly across the street from Helena’s property on Lacey Blvd. 
  • Helena’s lawsuit alleged that Kashian pressured the city to remove Helena from the property or restrict Helena’s proposed expansions based on the perceived incompatibility of Helena’s fertilizer operations with the proposed shopping center. 
  • Hanford later approved Helena’s expansion request on its property, causing Kashian to stop work on his project until the city reconsidered its decision. That started the discussions around moving Helena’s operations to the Kings Industrial Park, which never ultimately materialized despite the sale agreement. 

What they’re saying: Hanford Mayor Travis Paden said in a statement that the settlement will not impact the city’s ability to provide essential services, such as police and fire. 

  • “The fact that this lawsuit has been pending for so long has had an impact on the city’s ability to budget for future services for many years now and although unfortunate, it’s a relief to bring closure to this matter,” Paden said.
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