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Council to talk big box store ordinance
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Hello, Walmart Supercenter?


At the direction of Turlock City Councilman Ted Howze, and by recommendation of the Development Collaborative Advisory Committee, the Turlock City Council will consider changing the longstanding City of Turlock policy banning big box stores.


At their June 10 meeting, the DCAC recommended the City Council consider designating at least two areas for such “regional commercial” uses in the in-progress Turlock General Plan update, and that they amend the definition of “discount superstore” in the current zoning ordinance to allow more than 5 percent of the floor space of such retailers to sell grocery items, allowing businesses such as a Super Target or Walmart Supercenter to come to town.


On Dec. 16, 2003, the Turlock City Council amended its zoning ordinance specifically to ward off stores larger than 100,000 square feet which included grocery stores. In that decision, the City Council found such stores are “fundamentally inconsistent with the goals, policies, and objectives of the Turlock General Plan,” according to a staff report.


The staff report finds that the City of Turlock made the argument against superstores so well in that original ordinance that rescinding the ordinance would be legally problematic.

 As such, the synopsis provides two workable alternatives, aligned with the DCAC recommendation: applying the currently unused “regional commercial” zoning designation to a few areas in town, which would allow for big box type stores, or altering the zoning ordinance to allow for more than 5 percent of a “discount superstore’s” floor sales area to be used for grocery items.

The zoning alternative is considered more feasible and less costly by the staff report, but will take more than a year to complete as it would be incorporated in the ongoing General Plan revision. The zoning ordinance change could be quicker, but more costly.


As the current ordinance argues that superstores with more than 5 percent of the floor sales area dedicated to groceries would create blight and undermine the neighborhood centers concept in the current general plan, the city would need to hire an outside legal counsel and an economic specialist to determine how much additional floor space could be devoted to groceries before creating an inconsistency with the general plan. For comparison, the Walmart Supercenter under construction in Atwater will have 20 percent of its floor space devoted to groceries, and will be larger than any dedicated grocery store currently in Turlock.


The Turlock City Council will be asked to discuss the report only, and will not take any specific action on the alternatives presented.

  Vintage Lounge seeks permit fee return

The Turlock City Council will consider reimbursing a Conditional Use Permit fee to Vintage Lounge owner Dan Gray, charged when he amended the piano bar’s hours of operation earlier this year.


When originally approved, the Vintage Lounge’s operating hours were from 11 a.m. to 12 midnight. In January, the closing hour was revised to 1:30 a.m. through council review.


Gray believes that, when he was issued his original permit, staff was directed to amend his hours of operation after a trial period proving his business did not increase crime rates. As such, he does not think the $2,830 CUP amendment fee should apply.


According to Turlock city staff, while there was discussion of a possible trial period during council discussion of the original permit, no special exception was granted from the CUP amendment process. City staff says over $3,200 was spent preparing the permit change.


The staff report finds that the city should not return the $2,830 charged for the permit change, but notes the City Council can choose to refund all or a portion of the fees.

 The Vintage Lounge took a contentious path through Turlock government before approval in December 2008, with questions raised over how the piano bar obtained a liquor license in an over-saturated area through a process requiring only the approval of then-City Manager Tim Kerr. The permit hearing also resulted in a Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury investigation over whether Councilwoman Mary Jackson acted inappropriately by voting on the project, which at one point was legally represented by a member of her campaign team; Jackson was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing. The Turlock City Council is also expected to:·         Formally accept community donations to support the summer recreational swim program, totaling $14,525. The council is then expected to appropriate those funds – combined with $71,550 generated by discontinuing healthcare benefits for elected officials – to pay for recreational swim program costs from July 1 to Aug. 6 at the Turlock and Pitman high school pools.·         Accept the donation of a hybrid wind-solar streetlight to be installed at Rotary International Park from DirectNu Energy of San Jose. The light will help meet a city staff-identified need for additional security lighting at the park. While the light is free, the city must collect the streetlight from San Jose and install it, but the costs are expected to be lower than those of purchasing a light, running conduit, and paying a monthly electrical bill. The City of Turlock currently faces $590,000 in ongoing costs from maintaining and powering streetlights.·         Hear a special briefing on the activities of the Homeless Action Committee from Turlock Downtown Property Owners Executive Director Trina Walley, who sits on the Homeless Action Committee.·         Receive staff updates on the Public Safety Facility, which has seen its construction stalled by the state’s taking of $3.3 million of Turlock Redevelopment Agency funds to balance its budget, and also on the Annual Street Line Striping Project.·         Accept $50,322 in federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, which would be used to support police services directed to support special events and address crime trends.·         Issue proclamations recognizing National Night Out 2010, set for Aug. 3, Parks and Recreation Month, and the retirement of Charles Barnett, a Senior Fleet Maintenance Mechanic.

·         Establish liens on 13 properties for weed, obnoxious growth, debris, and abandoned vehicle abatement costs.  The liens total approximately $2,360.

 The Turlock City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Yosemite Room of Turlock City Hall, located at 156 S. Broadway.To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.