And you thought Ground Zero was in New York City. You silly pup. ItÕs at the northeast corner of County Road 90 and Grant Avenue (also known as Far West Russell Boulevard), right here in Winters.
This tear-shaped little snippet of land, about two acres in size, is the most embattled piece of property in Winters history, following plans to construct a ÑÊdun dun dunnnnn ÑÊBurger King there.
And right about now, youÕre wondering why IÕm wasting valuable Enterprise ink on picayune Winters worries? Because my boss reports that the recent edition of the Express with the Burger King story on the front page was the first one ever to sell out in Davis.
Sure, that sounds impressive, but we only have two news racks in Davis with six copies each. ÒSold outÓ isnÕt really so exciting now, is it. On the other hand, that means that at least 12 whole people actually put down their iPhones and MacBooks long enough to drop a couple quarters in a news rack and read something on real newsprint. Now, thatÕs impressive.
And also a little alarming, because if a Winters Burger King is big news, dang, yÕall are really bored down there on Far East Grant Avenue, arenÕtcha? Guess it was one of those ÒIÕm so bored, I want to throw myself in front of traffic or read the Winters ExpressÓ kinda days? Whatever the motivation, a hearty thank you to all 12 of you, and just to show my appreciation, IÕll stir this tempest in a teapot a bit more.
For starters, IÕm not being completely facetious nor grotesquely callous about comparing Ground Zero in Winters to Ground Zero proper. True, itÕs not hallowed ground here. In fact, itÕs not even furrowed ground. ItÕs a little blip of land that for many years, mainly served as the site for the sign pointing to MaddyÕs Fruit Stand. After MaddyÕs closed, it was just what it always was Ñ a dry little patch of star thistle and dirt clods, until this summer, when a local farmer opened a little makeshift fruit stand there.
If youÕve been to Winters, youÕve probably passed this corner a thousand times and never even noticed it, and if youÕve never been to Winters, er, how do I say this nicely É Loser!
While Ground Zero in New York City means ground zero as in Òdetonation point,Ó Ground Zero in Winters means this ground (until now) was truly a big Òzero.Ó Even the star thistle was doing us a favor sprouting there. But along comes Burger King, threatening to destroy life as we know it, and suddenly this isnÕt just a lackluster little spit of dirt and weeds anymore. Oh no ÑÊnow itÕs the Gateway to Our Town! Whatever happens there will impact life in Winters forever after! ItÕs the very heart and soul of all that we hold dear! The very future of life hinges upon what springs up in place of the star thistle!
Besides the name, hereÕs what both Ground Zeros really have in common: A very unpopular business/activity is set to go on/near them both and suddenly all hell has broken loose. HereÕs another commonality: Both pieces of property are zoned for that very unpopular business/activity and believe me, if a Warriors for Christ Center was being proposed near Ground Zero, New York, or a Trader JoeÕs going in at Ground Zero, Winters, there wouldnÕt have been a peep of protest.
Trouble is, people donÕt bother to read their local General Plans or zoning laws unless something they donÕt like is being considered nearby:
ÒWhat do you mean that the lovely vacant field next door has always been zoned to be a slaughterhouse? What do you mean that a helicopter pad behind my house has been on the planning books for 25 years? What do you mean that Stripper Heaven is legally zoned to open up right next to my precious Halos R Us Christian novelty store?
ÒItÕs outrageous! Gather the troops! Circle the wagons! Storm the city council meeting! Crank out the petitions! And for the love of God, somebody toss some fairy shrimp in that mud puddle and stuff a few burrowing owls down those gopher holes so we can end this nightmare once and for all!Ó
Now, I love fairy shrimp and burrowing owls and even lowly gophers as much as the next person, but the time to fret over them is when the General Plan is being created and the zoning laws are being written. In the case of Ground Zero, Winters, even the fairy shrimp and burrowing owls donÕt want to live there. Just Burger King.
That land along Interstate 505 has been zoned Highway Commercial for decades. Nobody even blinked over that until now. What exactly did people think Highway Commercial meant? IÕll give you a hint Ñ a solar-powered Davis Food Co-op outlet surrounded by a green belt and an organic peach orchard isnÕt exactly what they had in mind when our General Plan was approved.
Does that mean I approve of having a Burger King in Winters? Oh hell no. IÕm not a fan of any fast food, with the possible very occasional exception of Taco Bell. In fact IÕm only slightly more likely to go inside a Burger King than an Islamic Center.
But IÕll tell you what I like even less than junk food or fundamentalist religion ÑÊother people telling me what I can and canÕt do with my money, or with land that IÕve legally purchased with the intent of constructing a business that is allowed under the established local zoning laws for that property.
Here in America, you donÕt get to choose what type of business other people open. You only get to choose not to go there.
Ñ Follow Debra DeAngelo on Twitter. Links are posted at and http://www.edebra.com http://www.wintersexpress.com. Find DebraÕs columns online at http://www.wintersexpress.com, http://www.edebra.com and http://www.ipinion.me