Planning Commission postpones to further discuss Grocery Outlet plans

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The project design plans show the proposed view of what the Grocery Outlet store would look like from the E. Grant Avenue viewpoint. (Courtesy graphic)

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The Winters Planning Commission made a unanimous motion to continue a meeting to approve the location, usage, and design of a 16,000 square foot box-store on the corner of Grant Avenue and East Main Street.

More questions than answers over a proposed Grocery Outlet had Senior Planner Kirk Skierski fielding questions from commissioners and the public at the regularly scheduled Aug. 24 meeting for nearly an hour and a half, leading Chair Gregory Contreras to take a roll call vote to postpone. The biggest question asked was asked by Commissioner Judith Arce.

“Is there any way to ask the community if this is what they want,” she asked. “This grocery store that will be here for a while, how do we know it is serving the needs of this community?”

Among community interests, other notable concerns included aesthetics and landscaping. Skierski detailed all proposed building materials, including stucco, horizontal wood cladding, brick veneer, and galvanized corrugated metal siding, as well as metal canopy and awnings for window treatment.

“The proposed building design includes elements of the Blue Mountain Terrace Senior apartments, the Yolo Federal Credit Union building, and the Winters Healthcare building,” Skierski said, noting the aesthetics reflect the downtown history and the city’s agricultural heritage.

The lack of a three-dimensional design left Commissioner Chris Rose questioning pedestrian and bicycle traffic and aesthetics. However, without a definitive plan on a proposed roundabout or traffic signal, and East Main Street having different standards regarding bicycle infrastructure and lanes, Skierski could not answer.

“If it is not an issue, why not do it (create a roundabout),” Rose said. “Creating more pit stops and lights into town does not seem like a good idea; I know I don’t want to stop 12 times on the way into town.”

Commissioner Jessica Smith wanted to know exactly who would make the final decision regarding the proposed traffic light due to the recent fatality on Main Street.

“I think that might be a big concern of the community considering a young man was just killed in an accident on that exact corner recently,” she said.

According to Skierski, the applicant makes the request and decision. At this point, he said the “high-level design review” included the Planning Commission’s review of the location, usage, materials, and the building design, which led to resident Kate Laddish sharing several concerns, including parking lot landscaping and vegetation. In addition, she shared the lack of proposed shade contributes to the “heat island effect,” increasing temperatures that cause more air conditioning.

“I would be interested in the applicant bringing back a design that includes trees that will shade it more or perhaps look into options for solar car shade,” Laddish said, adding the ideal vegetation would also require low water and not be highly flammable.

According to Skierski, the city has zoning requirements for parking lot landscaping: one tree for every six parking spaces, equaling the 11 trees noted and required for the site plan proposal. Additionally, he said, “general landscaping is reviewed in depth during the building permit process,” and the state has requirements for plant types regarding irrigation and landscaping for large-scale projects like this.

Grocery Outlet’s peek stormwater discharge and infiltration was Laddish’s next concern, which was deferred to Bryan Bonino of Laugenour and Meikle Civil Engineers. He explained that several state-mandated conditions of approval require retreatment for storm drains and trash capture.

“The city does not have a specific permit with that, so we have to complete the state requirements,” Bonino said, adding the proposed drainage would go to low-swell areas similar to Starbucks on the corner of Matsumoto Lane and Grant Avenue. “Most of the questions she (Laddish) had regarding drainage would be accomplished through those swells.”

Lastly, aside from the building design being a bit “bulky,” Laddish said she is against a proposed traffic light.

“I think we need to recalibrate what we are thinking of in terms of our stop light growing thicket and consider a roundabout which is safer and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

The McClish family, who own the property immediately to the east of the proposed location, are pretty happy with the proposal, according to Darin Gale of Gale Force Consulting, who spoke on behalf of the “the long-standing family that has a long history in Winters.”

“They are excited to see the General Plan implemented, and to see a project by a quality developer,” Gale said. “We hope it will spur additional economic development.

Vice Chair Lisa Baker shared concerns regarding the proposed traffic light meeting the Winters Complete Streets Program requirements. She also wanted to know more about aesthetic landscaping guidelines for the north side of the building and the lack of a project checklist.

“I know we have had quite a bit of staff change, so I really want to make sure that you are going through the checklist and also in the future, we are already adhering to what we have already adopted to do,” she said.

Contreras advised commissioners to write further questions and concerns and present them at the next meeting. Until then, Kirk will address some of the posed problems brought up with city staff.

“It’s always a concern since there are always competing interests, and we want to make sure we are always acting with the authority we are given by the council and not outside that,” Contreras said.

The public is encouraged to attend the next Planning Commission meeting on Sept. 27 to share any concerns or questions about the proposed project, which is available for review at https://tinyurl.com/y4vz2msd.

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