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Piano bar given pass on midnight restriction
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What was controversial in 2009 was an easy decision in 2010. On Thursday, the Turlock Planning Commission unanimously approved extending the hours of operation for the Vintage Lounge Piano Bar from 12 midnight to 1:30 a.m. daily.
A year ago, the Turlock Police Department vehemently opposed the Vintage Lounge’s request to stay open later than 12 midnight. TPD has a list of 10 standard conditions that they apply to all new or amended alcohol licenses, intended to mitigate negative impacts of alcohol consumption on the neighboring community. One standard condition, ultimately imposed on the Vintage Lounge, limits sales, service, and consumption of alcoholic beverages to midnight.
“I’ve always felt from the very beginning we put you through a lot — not the Planning Commission per say,” said commissioner Soraya Fregosi.
Upon Vintage Lounge owner Dan Gray’s request, the Turlock Police Department looked into year-over-year crime statistics in the Vintage Lounge’s vicinity. While there was a significant increase in burglaries from a year ago, the TPD determined the increase could not be attributed to the Vintage Lounge’s operation and, as such, determined the business generated “no significant impact” on department resources.
According to TPD, the Vintage Lounge had only one call for service in the first year of operation. No police report was taken for the disturbance.
With the TPD’s blessing to extend the hours of operation, city staff determined the additional hours would not create additional noise, traffic or parking impacts on the neighboring community. With little discussion, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the extension.
“You went through the hoops and, congratulations, you’re doing a great job,” said Planning Commission Chairman Mike Brem.

Draft Housing Element passes Planning Commission
The Housing Element, a document that will guide Turlock housing policy through 2014, was approved in its near final form by the Turlock Planning Commission on Thursday.
The approved Housing Element was largely the same as seen in earlier drafts, but several changes had to be made due to State Department of Housing and Community Development requirements. The amended Housing Element will allow for buildings taller than 35 feet in residential districts under certain circumstances, will address farmworker housing and energy conservation, and will require low-income housing projects to make a minimum of 20 percent of the units affordable to extremely low-income households — those earning lower than 30 percent of the area median income.
The document will go before the Turlock City Council for adoption on Feb. 9, and will then go to the state for final approval.

Planning Commission welcomes members
The Turlock Planning Commission welcomed its newest commissioner on Thursday, Alex Salcedo. Salcedo had previously served as a planning commission alternate.
Former planning commissioner Aben Williams, who left Turlock to pursue a job opportunity, has returned to fill Salcedo’s seat as a Planning Commission alternate.
Victor Pedroza, who was originally proposed by Mayor John Lazar to fill the vacant seat, will continue on as a Planning Commission alternate. According to Planning Commission Chairman Mike Brem, Pedroza’s appointment was “caught in the political machinations of Turlock.”

Poker Room expansion moves on
The Planning Commission approved amending the Turlock Poker Room’s Conditional Use Permit on Thursday, allowing the card room to increase from 10 to 14 gaming tables.
The decision follows the Dec. 15, 2009, City Council approval of a development agreement with the Poker Room, allowing the Poker Room to expand in exchange for paying a percentage of their proceeds to the city.
According to Turlock Poker Room co-owner Phillip Rheinschild, the Poker Room will add 18 to 20 new employees to staff the new tables, pushing their total number of employees over 140. Rheinschild went on to say the Poker Room attracts 400 to 600 unique players each weekday, and more than 2,000 on each weekend day.

Cargo container ordinance becomes clearer
The City of Turlock’s plans to draft an ordinance governing the use of cargo containers as auxiliary buildings moved forward on Thursday, as the Planning Commission held a workshop to discuss the role of cargo containers in residential districts.
As a result of the workshop, the final ordinance will likely allow temporary uses — those less than three months in duration, usually for moving or construction purposes — without requiring a permit. The only governing rule would be that such transitory containers could not block garage doors or other building entrances, and could not be stacked.
Permanent uses, larger than 120 sq. ft., would likely face all of the standard building requirements for accessory buildings. As such, containers would be required to be decorated and landscaped to meet development standards, building standards, and fire and safety standards. Development fees would also be required.
Additionally, any use within 6 feet of an existing structure would count as a part of the larger building and be subject to the same regulations. Cargo containers with electricity or plumbing would also be required to meet all building standards, regardless of size.

Massive county warehouse threatens Turlock
The City of Turlock has taken issue with plans to build an 180,000 sq. ft. warehouse on county land at the corner of W. Main Street and N. Washington Road, right outside the border of the Westside Industrial Specific Plan Industrial Park.
The warehouse, proposed by Avila & Sons, would be used for the storage and shipping of sweet potatoes and watermelons.
Given the across-the-street proximity from the City of Turlock, city staff is requesting Avila & Sons pay all city development fees for transportation, police, and fire, as well as some WISP fees. The city will also request that Avila & Sons widen Washington along their frontage to meet WISP requirements.
The City of Turlock has some concerns with the project moving forward, however, as the proposed warehouse will use 20 acres of a 35 acre Williamson Act property.
The Use Permit will be before the Stanislaus County Planning Commission at an as yet undetermined date.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.