Most Viewed Stories
City working to move construction company
BARSTOW • Joyce Helmer, who owns William J. Helmer General Engineering Contractors, Inc. with her husband, remembers when her entire street was First Street, and she could drive straight through to downtown Barstow.
Back then, there was no Interstate 15 in the way, and the family business had the area to themselves.
“There was nothing,” Helmer said. “We paid to pave the streets, get the water and everything.”
Since then, though, the neighborhood was annexed into the city, and development expanded farther south from Barstow’s historic core. And with the city came zoning regulations — something the Helmer business has never complied with.
The property was grandfathered into the city, exempting it from the city’s zoning regulations, Consulting City Engineer Brad Merrell said at a recent City Council meeting. Over the years, the city continued to grant extensions to the company, he said.
Today, the company’s headquarters is a single-family home on the 1000 block of Madrona Drive. While only a few homes are on the block, reaching the site requires driving through several blocks of residential neighborhoods. Sometimes vehicles leave the business at late hours because the company, which installs water and sewer lines, is always on-call to make repairs, Helmer said.
Nearly a dozen construction vehicles are parked throughout the block and on the property, including at least six cars and sport utility vehicles and several semi trucks and trailers. Construction materials also appear to be stored outside the home.
Ultimately, city officials would like to see the company move, Merrell told the council.
Helmer’s company purchased land on Jasper Road in 1983, but has never developed it. That area would be zoned properly for the business, officials said.
Helmer said the company had filed plans with the city to develop the property, but had not yet secured the necessary approvals. They recently completed a different permitting process with the San Bernardino Association of Governments because the new bridge at Lenwood Road may use part of the property for right-of-way, Helmer said.
At a recent City Council meeting, some residents said the city should do more to remove the construction company from the area, citing noise and disruption to nearby homes.
“I honestly believe this council is acting in bad faith, and you haven’t done anything to resolve the problem,” Barstow resident Mike Hernandez said.
But Helmer said it was the economy that was holding them back. With construction at a near-standstill in Barstow these days, their most reliable customer is Golden State Water Company, Helmer said. She said she didn’t know when the company would be able to afford to move to a new property, even if the city approved its planning documents.
“We were up here on the hill all by ourselves — we thought for a long time,” Helmer said, “but it didn’t last.”
Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or firstname.lastname@example.org