Planning Commission approves Grocery Outlet design application

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The updated Grocery Outlet site plan presented to the Planning Commission. (Courtesy graphic)

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The design review application for a proposed Grocery Outlet passed through the Winters Planning Commission.

After two lengthy meetings in August and September discussing traffic signals, landscaping, and aesthetics, Planning Commission members unanimously agreed to pass a motion to bring a 16,000 square foot box-store on the corner of Grant Avenue and E. Main Street.

Senior Planner Kirk Skierski began addressing one of the first concerns brought up by Commissioner Judith Acre in August and resident Corinne Martinez at the Sept. 27 meeting. Does the community have any say on whether or not they want a new grocery store?

The answer is no.

“In front of the Planning Commission is the site plan and design review, so the Planning Commission’s focus and prevue is limited to the configuration, layout, and building materials of the proposed building,” Skierski said.

Skierski could answer Martinez’s question regarding why the Grocery Outlet needs a public gathering space.

“The City’s Grant Avenue guidelines encourage plazas and courtyards into private development projects; it helps bring the development down to the pedestrian level, engages the street, and creates space for individuals to congregate,” Skierski explained.

Items discussed involved traffic signals and landscaping, which resident Kate Laddish shared concerns about at both meetings. Laddish asked commissioners to consider revamping the city layout, specifically regarding a roundabout verse a traffic signal at the location.

“If all signs point to a traffic sign because of the General Plan — the General Plan is 30 years old this year — so if the problem is that we are still making decisions on the General Plan, but the General Plan no longer aligns with what we are trying to do or accomplish then that may be a larger stumbling block or project that we need to address,” Laddish said.

Regarding landscaping, Laddish requested the commission consider using trees that will provide a dense shade to decrease the urban heat island. She also asked that Juniper trees not be used since they are highly-flammable.

Laddish also shared concerns about light pollution. Skierski explained that the Grocery Outlet’s lighting scheme is similar to the Grant Avenue corridor and will have lighting for safety and parking purposes that are fully shielded and point downwards.

Resident Chris Owens, who lives directly across the street from the proposed site, shared his concerns about the remaining undeveloped parcel of land adjacent to the Grocery Outlet; however, Skierski was unable to offer ease.

“Future development would require a conditional use permit, site plan design review, and until a proposal comes forward, the staff is unaware of what will happen,” Skierski said.

While some questions remain unanswered, other answers were evident, as described in the staff report. The courtyard material is American Disability Act compliant, consisting of herringbone brick pavers similar to the Main Street and Railroad Avenue intersection. The six bicycle parking spaces required for the project are located on the western side of the property, directly north of the proposed parking lot and adjacent to the entrance of the building.

As for aesthetics and landscaping on the north side of the property, approximately 15 trees are proposed adjacent to Grant Avenue, along with about 5,500 square feet of ground cover and shrubs. There will be varying roof heights for the building, and construction materials include stucco, horizontal wood cladding, brick veneer, split-face concrete, and galvanized corrugated metal siding. The building would also have a metal canopy, awnings for window treatment, and decorative metal grid framing for additional siding treatment.

Overall, there are 53 trees on the proposed site. The Winters Municipal Code requires one tree for every six parking spaces, totaling 12 required trees. Skierski said all proposed trees are consistent with the City’s Master Tree List. Additionally, there are approximately 21,000 square feet of ground cover and shrubs.

“A majority of the landscape is adjacent to E. Main Street, which would help screen the parking lot area when individuals are traveling along the road,” Skierski said, adding the applicant provided seven percent more shade than the municipal code’s 50 percent mandate.

Though commission members approved the design, resident Marcia Gibbs did not. The local wrote in comments as to why she opposes the Grocery Outlet.

“The proposed new food store would be about 1,500 feet from our only existing full market. Does it make sense for a town of some 7,500 people to have an additional store along with our existing Dollar General? Are we certain this is good planning? While we may not always be pleased with Lorenzo’s Town and Country Market, they have served the Winters community for over 70 years and wouldn’t it be a better solution for all to make improvements to that market and along with increasing access,” Gibbs wrote.

Resident Nadia Chapman disagreed. Chapman told commissioners from the podium that the Grocery Outlet would better serve Winters’s large, low-income section.

“I think they will be well-served by a cheaper food option that they can comfortably afford,” Chapman said.

Mark Engstrom, who represents Grocery Outlet, said the applicant attempted to address all of the questions raised in the August meeting, explicitly detailing the possible traffic congestion at the location. As for the $3 million price tag to create a signal, “there is no way we could afford to install that in the first place,” Engstrom said.

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