The new owner of the landmark Bishop Nursery is 789 Home Street, LLC.
At the City of Bishop Planning Commission meeting Wednesday, more than a dozen residents, mostly from the neighbors living on Rome Drive, listened as the new owners requested changes to the conditional use permit (CUP) to build 12 houses instead of 15 on the 2.75 acre property, and to keep the landmark commercial use nursery in place. One more change: to incorporate a second floor studio residential dwelling unit (apartment) within the existing nursery building for the nursery manager.
The changes were approved on a 5 to 2 vote by the commissioners, with Jose Garcia and Hank Heckman voting “No.”
There was another request on the agenda, which was withdrawn, to make a change to a previously agreed upon 8-foot wall along Bishop Creek running between the Nursery property and houses on Rome Drive.
Homes along Bishop Creek from Rome Drive will still be single-level and an eight-foot wall built to shield Rome Street residents from the subdivision to prevent … well what exactly is an open question.
The new owners, represented by the 789 Home Street, LLC project manager, Charles Bauman, say “We want to be a long-term partner with the community. That means being a good neighbor. We also want to build aesthetically pleasing new housing into the project.”
The latter takes away the concern many held that future, new homeowners could build whatever type of house they wanted on the lots. The builder of the new homes will be, according to Bauman, looking at Craftsman-style floor plans.
The subdivision project was first presented to the City of Bishop in 2015 by Bob Kingston, who had bought the Bishop Nursery property several years before from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. There was immediate opposition from the residents living on Rome Drive, which is adjacent to the nursery.
The opposition to the housing project has largely been represented and headed by homeowner Terry Tye. He threatened legal action against the city for zoning violations and expressed concerns over wildlife, noise, aesthetics, tree removals, contaminated soil removal, street widths and impacts on local schools. The City Planning Department is confident that those issues have been addressed and recommended the project should go forward given the urgent need for additional housing in the city.
Since the proposal was initially presented in 2015, Tye met with Kingston and they agreed on changes to mitigate many of the concerns. The new owners agreed to those changes.
However, after hearing from dozens of city and county residents asking if the Nursery could be saved and reopened, they decided to change the proposal by reducing the number of residential units from 15 to 12, and keeping the Bishop Nursery building, which is to be renovated and the business reopened under new management.
A petition with 225 signatures in support of the effort was presented to the committee, and according to the former Bishop Nursery manager, Liz Merrill; she could have as easily collected over 5,000 signatures if she had more time. The nursery does enjoy broad community support both within the city and outside the city limits. Not only did the nursery provide specialized services and products for landscaping, it also provided jobs for up to two dozen employees.
The clear winners of the commission’s approval Wednesday evening are those Bishop residents that have acknowledged that the City of Bishop has a serious housing shortage at numerous public meetings and wish to see something done about it. The Housing Element of the General Plan identifies the need for 65 new housing units to be constructed between 2014 and 2019, and it supports allowing for mixed-use development such as the 789 Home Street, LLC project.