By Mark A. Diaz
The Arroyo Grande Planning Commission voted to move forward with a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the development of the former Kmart building located at 1570 W. Branch St. in the Oak Park Plaza shopping center. In April 2018, the retail store became one of many that the chain closed. The vote passed unanimously with Commission Member Glenn Martin recusing himself to avoid a possible conflict of interest.
The CUP allows the construction of a 4,500 square foot addition to the building (where the former garden center stood) and the establishment of a 24-hour fitness facility. It also allows for a new grocery store authorized to sell beer, wine, and distilled spirits. An additional component of the project that does not require a CUP, but is part of the plan, is the establishment of a new retail store.
Issues of parking were brought up during the staff’s presentation to the planning commission. The number of parking spaces in the complex sits right on the cusp of the amount required by the municipal code. Also, an additional 40 trees would be added to the property. The Architectural Review Committee (ARC) voiced reservations about the placement of the proposed trees and cited concerns about crowding the area and requested that the final placement plan return to the ARC for a recommendation to the community development director.
Due to public input, the commission postponed voting on the proposed internally illuminated 50-foot sign that was included in the developmental plans.
Commissioner Lan George voiced her objection to voting on the sign after asking Planning Manager Matt Downing a series of questions pertaining to what would be the tallest sign in the city and potentially lit 24-hours a day.
“My frustration with this package,” said George, “is that I have no frame of reference.” She noted the lack of elevation plans and comparisons in the information presented to the commission.
During the public comment section, Patty Welsh of Arroyo Grande said the sign would essentially be a “billboard.”
“We don’t live in Salinas,” said Welsh. “Looking at this, this looks like you’re going to Salinas.”
Resident, Michelle Fletcher voiced her objection to “saturating the market” with national chain stores moving into the area.
“I feel like this kind of proposal [is one] that a lot of the people moved from where they were living to get away from this type of thing,” said Fletcher. She went on to say from her experience with volunteering in schools that the school system loses support in the form of auctions, jog-a-thons and other fundraisers. “When these chains start to come in, we really lose a lot of community support for the schools…I have noticed that the chain markets, their hands are tied, and where we really get our support is from the small business owners.”