I feel the college site selection committee did an excellent job in evaluating the potential sites. From their perspective the first choice site, the existing site along with the library and Pashayan (old Midway Market) property on Highway 41, fit ‘their’ criteria better than the other proposed sites.
My concern, and objection to the recommended site, is that the committee did not adequately take into account the visions, desires and hopes of the Oakhurst community for our central commercial area.
This choice came as a surprise to us, having been released less than a week earlier. Had it not been for the article in the Sept. 14 Sierra Star this decision would not have been exposed until it had been finalized.
There was no previous public discussion of the impact of locating the college on Highway 41 within the core of our commercial center. Other than some traffic studies there was no consideration of any vision the local citizens, the Chamber of Commerce, the Visitors Bureau or the Vision Academy might have for developing the character of our town center.
Several years ago, before the college came along, our community went through a lengthy visioning process. That process resulted in a plan for the area along the river between the Oakhurst Community Park and Road 426.
That vision included the library and a mix of open space and public buildings. We assembled the property and began with the library. Before that vision could be completed the college came along and took over the space, essentially killing the rest of the plan and randomly filling the space with efficient but architecturally crude buildings.
The college is a valuable community asset and we are pleased that they are expanding their services in Oakhurst. However we expected them to be good neighbors and take our concerns, just as much as their own, into consideration in choosing their site.
As it stands now we are given a very short time to respond. A decision is expected to be made by the State Center Community College District trustees at 2 p.m. Oct. 3, during their meeting at the Madera Community College Center on Avenue 12. That will be the last public opportunity to speak before a decision will take place.
The selection committee and process should not be allowed to ignore, discount, and override our other community concerns. Now that four final sites have been selected, our community should be allowed more time to study the proposed sites and have a significant voice in that selection and integration.
It’s our future too.