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Council clears path for grocery chain

Council clears path for grocery chain

This former site of Dollar City will soon be rennovated and house a Mi Pueblo Food Center, following Council action Tuesday night.


POSTED May 24, 2011 11:09 p.m.

Two appeals, intended to prevent developers of a Mexican grocery store from opening up shop without addressing impacts on neighboring homes and industrial users, were unanimously overturned by the Turlock City Council Tuesday night.

The move clears the way for Mi Pueblo Food Center to begin work on its newest store, at the intersection of West Main Street and South Soderquist Avenue in the former site of Dollar City.

The 36,000 square foot full-service Mexican grocery store, will offer a carniceria, fresh produce, bakeries with fresh goods throughout the day, a hot Mexican deli with a seating area, a tortelleria, and a customer service center with check cashing, utility payments, and money transfers. The development will remodel 104,000 square feet of retail, which previously housed a Dollar City and a furniture store, while offering new and upgrading landscaping and storm drainage improvements to benefit the entire neighborhood.

The market will bring about 125 jobs to the City of Turlock, most of those full-time positions with benefits. Additionally, most employees would come from within a three to five mile radius of the store, Mi Pueblo representatives said.

“Many of us think this is a no-brainer,” said Mike Lynch, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Board, which voted unanimously to support the project at their most recent meeting. “Let’s make this happen. It’s 125 jobs; it’s a blighted area.”

                                                                   

Residents concerned with traffic, trash

The project was previously approved by the Turlock Planning Commission at their May 5 meeting. That decision came only after a decision was deferred for a month to allow developers and community members a chance to hammer out concerns regarding noise, trash, and traffic.

During that time, developer New Urban Communities Partners met with residents and agreed to install a three-foot-tall iron fence and shrubbery to prevent trash from blowing onto their property, install “No U-Turn” signs along the South Soderquist Avenue frontage, and direct trucks to travel via Tully Road and South Avenue, rather than taking West Main Street to South Soderquist Avenue.

But residents still had concerns Tuesday night.

Barbara Hetrick, a resident of South Soderquist Avenue and one of the appellants, said she and neighbors were not opposed to Mi Pueblo, but to what they saw as the city’s inappropriate response to the impacts which Mi Pueblo would generate.

“I ask you to apply some common sense to the traffic analysis,” Hetrick said. “... Our goal in making this request is to help ease the disruption our neighborhood surely faces.”

Hetrick pointed to the traffic analysis, conducted by a third-party and paid for by Mi Pueblo, which suggests a 14-fold increase in vehicle trips to the center, from around 500 to nearly 7,000 per day. Many of those customers, Hetrick said, would drive down South Soderquist Avenue.

Hetrick requested that her street be made into a residential parking only area, that any outdoor activity at Mi Pueblo be situated as far from residences as possible, and that noise be restricted. She also asked that the developer pay to remove the median on West Main Street, and to install a stop sign at the intersection of High Street and South Soderquist Avenue.

City Engineer Mike Pitcock said that the City of Turlock could not currently endorse the installation of that stop sign, as stop signs are intended only to increase safety and traffic efficiency, not to reduce traffic. Based on Turlock’s analysis, the traffic does not currently warrant a stop sign at that intersection.

Similarly, Pitcock opposed the residents’ demand to remove the median from West Main Street between South Soderquist Avenue and Tully Road, which would allow left turns into the development. Pitcock said city and international standards advise against allowing left turns across high-speed arterial streets, due to high risks for vehicle damage and bodily injury.

The city did agree to revisit the neighbors’ traffic concerns in the coming months. Six months after Mi Pueblo opens, the city will conduct a new speed survey on South Soderquist Avenue. Based on the increased traffic, the city will reanalyze the need for a stop sign at the intersection of South Soderquist Avenue and High Street, revisit a suggestion to only allow right hand exits from the shopping center onto South Soderquist Avenue, and look at retiming the signal at the intersection of South Soderquist Avenue and West Main Street.

“I understand the neighbors’ concerns, and I appreciate also that Mi Pueblo has worked with them,” Councilwoman Mary Jackson said. “... I believe the Mi Pueblo staff will continue to work with the neighbors if there is a problem, and I know the city staff will as well.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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