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Neighbors protest building of new Taco Bell
taco bell rendition
Plans are underway to build a new Taco Bell on N. Golden State Boulevard at Roberts Road, near Pitman High campus. - photo by Photo Contributed

Despite impassioned pleas against its construction, a new Taco Bell is one step closer to being built on N. Golden State Boulevard near the Pitman High campus.

The Turlock Planning Commission approved plans for the construction of a 24-hour Taco Bell restaurant at 3606 N. Golden State Blvd., along Roberts and Mountainview roads, with a few added conditions in an effort to mitigate concerns of nearby residents and property owners.

Ray and Pam Franco own eight houses that will sit across the street from the proposed restaurant. Both voiced concerns about the increased traffic, noise and lighting the Taco Bell will bring to the neighborhood at all hours.

"All our properties will be impacted. I think the traffic study has fallen far short. The traffic is already a problem on Mountainview, when it hits 2:30-3 o'clock it's a mess," Pam Franco said.

Roberts Road resident Jeff Dornbrack was concerned about the restaurant becoming a new hangout place, along with it worsening already existing traffic issues.

"With this being open 24 hours, this is going to be a haven hangout for Pitman High and other students," said Dornbrack.

"People use Roberts Road as a short cut and it's going to be miserable. Everybody thinks Roberts Road is a race track," he added.

According to a traffic study done for the project, the restaurant is expected to generate 96 morning and 69 afternoon peak hour trips, with approximately 50 percent of those trips being made by traffic already passing by the area. The study also found there should be no changes to the existing levels of service in the area as a result of the new restaurant.

A noise assessment done for the project found that expected noise levels would not exceed what is already in the area due to Golden State Boulevard traffic.

To mitigate some of the noise and traffic concerns, the project design includes 3 feet of landscape screening around the property; a drive-through lane that is parallel to Golden State Boulevard instead of residential streets; and the drive-through window speaker system facing Golden State.

Planning Commissioners expressed their understanding about residents' concerns at Thursday's meeting, however, said that the property in question is zoned for "Heavy Commercial" use, which allows for fast food restaurants.

"I had to question why they wanted it there; but they want it there and it's zoned for it," said Commissioner and mayoral candidate Mike Brem.

The commissioners added three conditions to their approval: redesign of the drive-through lane plans to encourage exiting on Roberts Road (as opposed to Mountainview Road); the elimination of up-lighting of the Taco Bell sign on the building's tower; and the addition of a sound wall on the southeast corner of the property near the drive-through.

"I would not want an establishment like this in front of my house, but as a planning commissioner, this project meets all zoning requirements," said Commission Chair Soraya Fregosi.

If approved by the City Council, construction is expected to begin on the project in mid-September.