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After 4-Year Battle, Fresno, CA, Animal Shelter Forced to Decline Land Donation From Local Self-Storage Operator Derrel’s Mini

Update 8/9/19 – FHAS last month withdrew its plan to build a privately funded animal-adoption center on the 4-acre Grantland Avenue site donated by Ridenour. FHAS backed out of the plan amid continued public protests, including a lawsuit to fight the zoning approval granted by the board of supervisors in October. Instead, FHAS now expects to use public money to build an $8 million facility about a half-mile from its present location, according to a source. Construction is expected to begin next year.

“We’re just very sad and disappointed,” Mitchell told a source in reference to foregoing the Grantland facility. “It was a dream and would have been fantastic for the whole community.”

Mitchell indicated the ongoing fight had become a drain on FHAS resources, while Ridenour noted the stress had taken a personal tole. “It just about ruined my health and two years of my life,” the self-storage owner told a source. “I was hoping to solve a community problem.”

Ridenour will redirect the $3 million he had intended for the Grantland center toward other initiatives, such as spay-and-neuter services and a wellness project with the H.O.P.E. (Halt Overpopulation with Prevention and Education) Animal Foundation, according to Mitchell. Ridenour still intends to help build low-cost animal-wellness clinics in other cities, he said.

Forgotten Fresno, the community group behind the lawsuit, had also contemplated mounting a recall election against the board of supervisors, according to Elisa Bilios, a member of the protest group and a listed plaintiff on the lawsuit.

A new 4-acre site for the center is being considered at South West Avenue and Dan Ronquillo Drive. Supervisors approved the land acquisition last month for about $500,000. The center would comprise nearly 123,000 square feet, which is much larger than the current facility, according to Mitchell.

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

1/23/19 – The FHAS animal-adoption center has received a pledge from an unidentified private foundation to give $20 toward construction costs for every dollar donated by the public, with a cap of $6 million. As of Friday afternoon, private donations had reached nearly $9,000, equaling $180,000 with the foundation’s initiative, according to the source.

The gift could exceed the $3 million Ridenour gave to the project, though the self-storage owner has also provided FHAS with the land for its new building.

Since running the operation through its makeshift shelter in the parking lot of the former county morgue, FHAS has dropped its euthanasia rate from 70 percent to less than 10 percent, the source reported.

10/26/18 – This week the Fresno County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved zoning for the FHAS animal-adoption center. More than 100 people attended Tuesday’s supervisors meeting to weigh in on the project, according to a source.

In addition to concerns about traffic and odor, resident John Lourenco suggested people might drop off dogs after hours, creating a hazard for the neighborhood and nearby Herndon-Barstow Elementary School. “The animals will likely head to the school to find food and shelter,” he said.

Pacheco reassured residents that Ridenour had adequately addressed all their concerns. “A majority of people’s concerns are based on the unknown, and only time will tell if our decision was right,” he said.

Ridenour agreed to add a block cement wall on the southside of the property, and a heating and cooling system will mitigate odors. The center won’t accept large dogs or operate an animal hospital, and will have an abandoned-dog policy.

“We are trying to build something for all of Fresno County. It has been a long road, and we are so glad we can move forward. This will be a beautiful facility,” Ridenour said.

John Kinsey, the attorney representing the neighbors, told the source the county didn’t conduct a thorough environmental review of the project and residents are considering legal action to stop it. The pet-adoption center will also require a site-plan review. If approved, construction could begin in the first quarter and be complete in about 10 months.

“We have been fighting this for a very long time, and we can finally move forward. It’s a big relief,” said Brenda Mitchell, FHAS board president.

9/14/18 – Fresno County planners balked at moving forward with the FHAS animal-adoption center this week after some residents voiced concerns it would produce foul odors and increase traffic congestion. Though Pacheco indicated he’s in favor of the project, he encouraged Ridenour and the FHAS to gather additional support from the community, according to the source.

"I can tell you I'm in a rock and a hard spot,” Pacheco said. “I support this project, the concept and have for many years. I believe there are some issues that have to be addressed."

The retired self-storage owner and FHAS agreed to hold one more public meeting with residents before the board of supervisors reviews the project on Oct. 23.

"We've really done a good job designing this, and it’s really going to be an asset to the community," Ridenour said.

8/13/18 – Derrel’s self-storage locations in Clovis and Fresno are collecting signatures in support of the proposed Fresno Humane Animal Services (FHAS) animal-adoption center, hospital and shelter on Grantland Avenue. Storage-facility visitors can view a rendering of the building and sign a petition through Sept. 10. Planners will consider the proposal on Sept. 11, according to the source.

Supporters have also set up an online petition on Care2. As of Friday afternoon, it had collected 2,813 signatures, 1,633 of which are from Fresno residents.

FHAS officials tweeted in support of the signature effort, sending out messages including, “We want out of this parking lot! It's horrible here! Please sign this Petition and let the Fresno County Board of Supervisors know that you support Fresno Humane building a new shelter at 99 and Grantland Ave. Thank you in advance for your ongoing support!”

4/14/16 – Self-storage owner Derrel Ridenour of Derrel’s Mini Storage has added a $3 million cash donation to his 4-acre land offer to help Fresno County build a new animal shelter. While the board of supervisors this week appeared willing to accept the deal, some members still have concerns that the overall cost of the project will be too high and the location may not be ideal, according to the source.

Ridenour’s cash offer would double the amount of money the county had committed to replace the existing shelter, but the self-storage operator also wants to lead the development effort. His preference is to construct a 24,000-square-foot adoption center and shelter that could cost more than $9 million, the source reported. An advisory board would determine the best size and budget for the facility, Ridenour told the board. “The county needs a shelter, and they won’t get too many chances to get the land and $3 million,” he said.

The supervisors voted to keep the project at $6 million or less. If any remaining amount above the allotted $6 million fell on the county to pay for the project, Poochigian told fellow supervisors it could jeopardize plans to build a new district attorney’s office and sheriff’s office substation.

“Mr. Ridenour will not donate to a bare-bones facility,” supervisor Brian Pacheco said during the meeting. “If you don’t want to do it the right way, the best-practice way … then he’s not interested.”

9/1/15 – Retired self-storage owner Derrel Ridenour, whose family operates Fresno, Calif.-based Derrel’s Mini Storage Inc., has offered to donate land near Grantland Avenue along Highway 99 to Fresno County officials for the purpose of building a new animal shelter. The city has been forced to look for options to relocate the shelter after plans stalled to expand the current facility, near downtown Fresno. The Grantland parcel offered by Ridenour is in the northwest portion of the city.

“I look at this as an opportunity for a good change for the animals,” Ridenour told the source. His offer is under consideration along with land that currently houses the county’s Juvenile Justice Center. The county already owns the justice-center property, which contains more than 100 acres on which to build, the source reported.

County officials were expected to review several possibilities in August. John Navarrette, county administrative officer, said he was instructed by supervisors to consider price, freeway access and existing zoning when looking for options. The existing shelter is next to the former county coroner’s office but lacks the opportunity for expansion.

Other than an aluminum building to house some animals, the shelter currently lacks adequate facilities to prevent animals from being exposed to outdoor elements during the summer and winter, according to the source. To keep the shelter at its current location would likely require eminent-domain proceedings, county officials said.

The county was scheduled to receive $11.8 million in July, with about $3 million expected to be used toward building a new animal shelter, according to supervisor Henry R. Perea. The justice-center site could potentially be used to start a vocational program involving dog care for those in detention, but board chair Debbie Poochigian recently argued for a more central location, noting that many residents who use the shelter reside in county islands just outside the boundaries of Clovis, Calif., and Fresno.

The county owns other properties that may also be considered for the shelter relocation, according to the source.

A recent letter to the editor published by the “The Fresno Bee” criticized officials for not jumping at Ridenour’s offer to donate land. Resident Don Drilling of Clovis wrote that Ridenour and his wife, Kim, are animal lovers and previously established the H.O.P.E. Animal Foundation, a clinic dedicated to providing low-cost neuter and spay services. “Mr. Ridenour is a man of action,” Drilling wrote. “As an example, take a look at the Derrel’s Mini Storage nearest you. It is not just a business; it is a complement to the neighborhood, with gorgeous landscaping and attractive walls that conceal storage compartments from view. Our elected officials should be thanking their lucky stars that a man of Mr. Ridenour’s caliber wants to help with a problem that they can’t figure out.”

Complicating the process is a change in provider for the county’s animal-control services. Liberty Animal Control Services had fulfilled the role since 2012 but filed for bankruptcy in May. California Animal Control took over in June, but county officials have recommended Animal Compassion Team as the new provider from a list of applicants. The recommendation is pending approval by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. The new, three-year contract is scheduled to start in October, the source reported.

Derrel’s operates 55 self-storage locations throughout California. The company’s portfolio comprises approximately 11.28 million square feet of net rentable square feet in about 72,200 units.

GV Wire, Opponents Force New Animal Shelter to a Different Spot
The Fresno Bee, Plans for a New Fresno County Animal Shelter Scrapped, But Supervisors Already Have Alternative
The Business Journal, Donor Offers $20-to-$1 Boost for Fresno Animal Shelter
ABC 30, Fresno County Delays Approving Free Animal Adoption Center
Fox26, Fresno Humane Animal Services Seeks to Build New Shelter
Care2, Support the Proposed Humane Animal Services Shelter, Adoption Center, and Hospital Project in New Fresno
The Fresno Bee, Let Ridenours Help With Animal Problems
The Fresno Bee, Rescue Group Lands Nod for Fresno County Animal Control
The Fresno Bee, Derrel’s Mini-Storage Owner Offers $3 Million to Build County Animal Shelter
The Fresno Bee, New Fresno County Animal Shelter May Require a Move
The Fresno Bee, Supervisors OK Plan for Animal Shelter to Move Forward, Despite Neighbors’ Concerns

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