After much deliberation on Aug. 26, the Council denied the appeals for the new Taco Bell at 3606 N. Golden State Blvd. so that the fast food restaurant will be constructed with a few added conditions.
Discussions of the item took an extended period of time, with the City, appellants, and Taco Bell representatives each taking turns speaking on the issue, but just when there seemed to be no end in sight, Mayor John Lazar suggested the two parties take it outside to resolve their differences.
When the appellants requested he facilitate the communication, Lazar obliged and the parties came to an agreement in about 12 minutes.
The conditions in the final agreement include that:
- The driveway at Mountain View Road will be closed off each night at 10 p.m. with bollards to prevent headlights from shining into the homes directly facing the Taco Bell (a rule that all Taco Bell restaurants follow, according to representatives, but a specific condition of this agreement).
- The dining room of the restaurant will close at 10 p.m. each night.
- Trash will not be taken out after 10 p.m. each night (to minimize noise disruption).
- The drive-thru will close at 1 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
At the beginning of the presentation of the item, Turlock Associate Planner Katie Quintero explained the reasonings in staff’s suggestion to the Council that the appeals be denied and the minor discretionary permit be approved for the 2,601 square-foot drive-thru restaurant with associated improvements on the 1.27-acre parcel.
The proposed site plan shows three driveways proposed, with the driveway on Golden State Boulevard being a right-in right-out only and the drive-thru area allowing for the stacking of up to 10 cars.
After being annexed into the City in late 1994, the property was zoned heavy commercial in 1995, according to Quintero, which includes the approval of drive-thru restaurants through a minor discretionary permit (MDP). MDPs are typically approved at staff level, unless like in the case of Taco Bell, there is opposition received and the plan is forwarded to the Planning Commission for a public hearing.
When the item was heard at the June 5 Planning Commission meeting, the Commission unanimously approved the MDP for Taco Bell with three conditions added to that resolution.
An appeal was then filed by Pam and Ray Franco, which pushed the approval to Council.
In their appeal, the Francos asked for several conditions that Quintero explained the City’s standing on. The Francos asked that:
- Trash not be taken out late to avoid generating excess noise (a condition held in the final agreement)
- A wall be built to help enclose noise along Mountain View Road (The City holds that only properties immediately adjacent are required to build one and the City’s general plan discourages walls in other cases)
- A more adequate traffic study be made (The City holds that the study looked at different traffic levels)
- A driveway on Mountain View Road be limited to entrance only (City believed limiting driveway to entrance would only mean longer trip lengths for vehicles leaving the site and is discouraged from the traffic engineering perspective)
- Safety concerns be acknowledged with pedestrians walking along the westside of Mountain View Road because there is currently no sidewalk all the way down Mountain View (This project, according to Quintero, is required to install full frontage improvements including sidewalk on the three sides of the property and as development continues down Mountain View Road, those projects would be required to install sidewalk at that time)
- A stoplight be installed at the intersection of Golden State Boulevard and Roberts Road (Golden State Boulevard is designated as an expressway by the General Plan, and that plan’s policy would not allow for a left turn out of Roberts Road onto Golden State Boulevard, meaning that the City does not believe it is warranted to have a traffic signal)
- Concerns be acknowledged about stop bar alignment along Mountain View Road’s visibility (According to Quintero, the white line will be moved as the project develops to improve visibility)
- Residential parking permits be allocated (Permit districts are only granted when there is an existing problem and project site is providing 44 onsite parking spaces even though the municipal code only requires 26 for that area)
- The restaurant close at midnight (The restaurant was at the time of the appeal planning to be open 24 hours. The option of limited hours was discussed at the Planning Commission meeting, but they felt it would be better for it to operate 24 hours to have someone there at all times to monitor the site)
- On-site security be required (The City has only required this of businesses that serve alcohol or for very large events)
- It be acknowledged that residents in the neighborhood did not know about the Planning Commission meeting (Public notices were sent out to people in the area for the public hearing as well as for the Aug. 26 Council meeting).
Following Quintero’s presentation, Councilmember Steven Nascimento asked if it would be possible to have an outlet for reciprocal access so that as buildings continue to be built, there won’t be more and more driveways on Mountain View Road. But in the contract for the church going in next door, that is not a condition, and according to Mike Pitcock that would be difficult to add to the agreement at this point.
The appellants Pam and Ray Franco then approached the microphone.
“We have a three-minute (limit),” said Lazar.
“We’re the appellant,” said Pam Franco.
“We’ll give you three minutes, will that work for you?” said Lazar.
“Not really,” said Ray Franco.
“Your staff got a lot more time than we’re going to get,” said Pam Franco.
“We just want the same amount that your staff had,” said Ray Franco.
The mayor conceded and the couple began to speak. The Francos emphasized the points they had made in their appeal by also personalizing the story by reminding Council that there are single families home across the way that have been there for nearly 10 years.
Ray Franco explained that they have owned the property where the houses are at for 26 years, since 1988. They made the houses into single-family homes for long term investments, and a lot has changed since the start of the their time there. In the beginning there was no Monte Vista Crossings, there wasn’t any heavy traffic coming out on Roberts Road because it was still essentially a one-lane dirt road, Pitman High School was not yet there, Christoffersen Parkway was still part of Zeering Road and it was a one-lane road, and the undeveloped property was not yet designated in the City of Turlock yet, but instead a part of Stanislaus County.
“We feel that the Planning Commission has overlooked numerous items here,” said Ray Franco. “One of the main responsibilities of this ordinance right here, 93301, is to minimize the impact of commercial development on adjacent residential districts. We feel that the Planning Commission did not use good discretion to come up with good, clear, minimization of the impact. They checked a lot of boxes that look real nice when you’re adopting a mitigated negative declaration, however a lot of those boxes don’t really address mitigating the noise and the traffic that’s going to be incurred by the residences adjacent.”
Pam Franco explained that their main goal in speaking to Council about their appeal was to reach some sort of reasonable agreement.
“I, like you John, am a real estate broker and developer, and I believe in property rights and I’m not here to try to take away Taco Bell’s property rights,” said Pam Franco. “What we’re trying to do is to work out an arrangement we can all live with. We all won’t be happy, we all know that, but at least we’re trying to work out something with Taco Bell so that they can move forward with their project and our homes, our rental homes, the homeowners that are around the corner can also enjoy the quiet enjoyment of their homes too.”
Pam Franco added that they do not think that Turlock Police Department should have to respond to non-emergency calls at Taco Bell, and that Taco Bell should be footing the bill for their own security. She also stated that it had been decided to allow no parking on the west side of Mountain View along Taco Bell, which would put any Taco Bell street parking on the residential side of the street.
“We just want it to be safe and sane for everybody involved,” said Pam Franco.
“Apple pie, baseball, and Taco Bell, I’m not un-American here,” said Ray Franco.
Four other residents of the area spoke on the Taco Bell going in, one concerned for the safety of the surrounding homes with high speed traffic using Roberts Road, one also concerned with the high speed traffic impact on Taco Bell as well as late night vandalism, a third suggesting other the Taco Bell be built in another location, but a fourth resident of the area spoke in disagreement of the appeal.
That resident, who is okay with the Taco Bell going in, stated that he lives in the area with his young family, and that they knew the potential for heavy commercial in the area when they bought their house in 2005. For his family, the home is just a starter, and they are okay with the fast food restaurant being constructed.
Dave Romano, representative of Taco Bell, argued that by the General Plan, the area was made ready to be an appropriate place for the Taco Bell. Romano also commended City staff for their dedication to the project in trying to find solutions to reduce residential impact. The architect for the project, Phillip Moss of VMI Architecture, has done several other Taco Bell projects, as well as the KFC 2705 W Monte Vista Ave. and El Pollo Loco at 2900 Countryside Dr. After Councilmember Bill DeHart asked how the restaurant would be resupplied, Moss explained that it could be a requirement that the trucks only come up Golden State Boulevard, not Mountain View Road or Roberts Road, to reach the restaurant.
After Mayor Lazar asked if the two parties could resolve something together outside, an agreement was reached with his arbitration and the two motions and resolution were passed with a 5-0 vote.