Reimbursement funds for the new McDonald’s at 300 and 311 S. Golden State Blvd. and 250 E. Marshall St. were approved at Tuesday’s Turlock City Council meeting, but not without some rebuttal.
Namely, concerns were with the building’s approval process and appearance in the Downtown setting, whether the proposed budget is concrete, and if there is a possibility of contaminate soil on the three parcels reserved for the new fast-food restaurant.
The new McDonald’s approval June 19 seemed to sneak under the radar for many Turlockers, City Councilmember Steven Nascimento included.
Nascimento explained that he met with City staff to review the initial proposal and followed up looking for an update on where the project stood, but that he had not heard back until seeing the reimbursement motion on the agenda for the July 22 Council meeting — the restaurant’s construction had already passed.
“Maybe you can go through sort of what that staff process is like and the ability of the public to appeal those decisions or be involved in those decisions at least to appeal that process,” said Nascimento.
Director of Development Services and City Engineer Mike Pitcock, who first presented the item prior to Nascimento’s question, had explained that the commercial zoning district meant the McDonald’s could be approved under a minor discretionary permit at a staff level, which it was.
Rose Stillo, City of Turlock Senior Planner, also added that although it was approved at a staff level, it was not a project that was passed on the first draft. For example, the City had McDonald’s draft numerous revisions to come to the final plan and Stillo stated that the McDonald’s representative was very cooperative in this process.
Stillo explained that when adjacent property owners were given notice, the public had the opportunity to appeal the approval.
“If any of those owners or anyone else in the public that is aware of this taking place, a lot of time word gets out and I know word has gotten out about this project, if they contact staff and request a public hearing then we do schedule a public Planning Commission meeting,” said Stillo. “That would be the first public hearing that would be held.”
She stated that staff did not receive any calls or any kind of contact from the public requesting a public hearing so it was then reviewed and approved at staff level.
With the new Taco Bell at 3606 N. Golden State Blvd. however, public appeals meant the approval process was moved from a discretionary permit to City Council. But that Taco Bell item, which has been continued to the Aug. 26 meeting, has yet to be reviewed. As of now, the recommended action and resolution within the Council agenda is to deny the appeal and approve the discretionary permit: in other words, to put in the Taco Bell.
“We did go through some design revisions, and especially for the building itself,” said Stillo. “To bring it more in compliance with the Downtown design standards which is making it… more historic looking. Not having real flashy colors, toning it down, making the colors and materials of the building blend in more with some of our historic buildings downtown.”
But Nascimento disagreed. Although he saw an improvement in the plans, he was not satisfied with the end result.
“Obviously the initial plans didn’t seem to fit in with Downtown at all and frankly I don’t think that the revised, approved plans meet our design guidelines and fit in with Downtown at all,” said Nascimento. “It’s a significant improvement from what they originally proposed but I still have concerns. But it sounds like we’re passed that point now.”
At this time, Stillo again took her seat, and Pitcock returned to his spot before the Council.
According to the plans, the new McDonald’s front will face East Avenue, its rear facing Center Street with the entrance and exit located off of Marshall Street.
Additionally, the exit on Marshall will not be right-turn-only, meaning drivers will be able to cross the median because the road is not considered an arterial, or high traffic area. The driveway will only be 75 to 80 feet away from Center Street, which Pitcock admitted isn’t ideal.
Councilmember Bill DeHart asked about the potential for the proposed reimbursement total to be overrun and whether the $413,106.20 figure was a set cap or if the City is open to contractor increases. Pitcock reported that McDonald’s originally stated the contingency fee would be 20 or 25 percent but that he told the developer that would be unacceptable. Pitcock explained that if there were for some reason unknown conditions, like for example contaminate soil, he said, that would push beyond the approved budget, McDonald’s would have to ask for an increase.
Such a request could not be approved at staff level but would have to come before Council.
“Just in follow-up, according to our historical records of that particular plot, what is the likelihood that we’re going to run into this contamination?” said DeHart.
“I don’t know of any contamination in that area,” said Pitcock. “It’s just one of those things in the Downtown you get into the areas that I think that were developed many, many years ago and decades ago that had less than stellar standards that you would have the opportunity for [contamination] to happen.”
“Not like a gas station or an oil reclaim facility?” said DeHart.
“I’m not familiar with that,” said Pitcock. “I know that down by Elk Street we did have a facility that would soak wood in creosote but the plume, I’m pretty sure, is not down this far.”
“Now, we would not have records of anything like that?” said DeHart.
“We don’t have records of anything,” said Pitcock.
Despite several concerns raised, the motion passed with a 5-0 vote.
The permit will expire six months from the approval date, on Dec. 19, if McDonald’s does not move forward with the approved plans.