November 08, 2011 Draft Minutes

Since this page was prepared by running a PDF Image file through a program that converts Image to Text, there may be a few “Textual Gremlins” here and there. Sorry bout that…..

MINUTES

LIVINGSTON PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

NOVEMBER 8, 2011

6:00 P.M.

The regular meeting of the Livingston Planning Commission was held in the City Council

Chambers on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. The meeting was called to order by Chair Flores at 6:00 p.m.

Commissioners Present: Chair Luis Enrique Flores, Vice-Chair Mario Mendoza, Commissioner Harpreet Bains, Commissioner Francisco Castellanos, Commissioner Roy Soria, and Alternate Commissioner Manoj Bains.

Commissioners Absent: None

Staff Present: Community Development Director Donna Kenney, and Administrative Assistant Filomena Arredondo.

Others Present: Council Liaison Theresa Land, Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, Mike Sperry, Manuel Cota, Ralph Mull, David Blevins, and others in the audience.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.


PRESENTATION

PRESENTATION CONCERNING A PARKING PLAN FOR A PROPOSED BUSINESS AT 444 MAIN STREET, LIVINGSTON – MIKE SPERRY.

Mike Sperry desires to open a night club in the former Tequila Club site at 444 Main Street, Livingston. This location received a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), Resolution 2001-16, which runs with the land on October 9, 2001, for alcohol served by the glass. Upon review of Mr. Sperry’s business license application, planning staff discovered this particular property does not currently have any parking. Staff requested the submittal of a parking plan by Mr. Sperry per LMC 5-4-5 (A) 13 which states: "Adequate off-street parking shall be required of all commercial and industrial land uses to accommodate parking demand, without the use of on-street parking.
Parking shall be provided within a reasonable distance from the building the parking is intended to
serve."

Mr. Sperry did not submit a parking plan, but instead requested, and was allowed by City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez, to do a presentation on his proposed business for the Planning Commission.

This item is a presentation only; no action will be taken by the Planning Commission.

Director Kenney presented the staff report and explained that when staff was researching this project in depth, looking for any parking agreements or in-lieu parking fees paid, they found Conditional Use Permit 2001-16 which was issued in 2001 for alcohol by the glass for the Tequila Club site at 444 Main Street. Now that El Diamante Bar at 430 Main Street has closed down, there is no other bar or cocktail lounge within 1,000 feet of the Tequila Club site.

Director Kenney added that when the Tequila Club was open, the parking standard in the City code was one (1) parking space for every 200 sq. ft. of public area, which is a little over 5,000 sq. f t . of public area based on the site plan submitted by Mr. Sperry. The parking standard has changed since the Tequila Club closed down several years ago. Now, for a bar/cocktail lounge, the parking standard is one (1) space for 50 sq. ft. of public area, so based upon this 5,000+ sq. ft. building for this use, it would equate to approximately 85 parking spaces.

There is a state law that states a Conditional Use Permit runs with the land, so the City Attorneys are currently doing some research to determine if the parking previously calculated for that site (one (1) space per 200 sq. ft. of public area) would run with the land or if the current parking standard (one (1) space per 50 sq. ft. of public area) applies.

Mr. Sperry met with the City Manager and stated he would like to get his project and his parking concerns in front of the Planning Commission to see how they feel about it.

Chair Flores announced, for the record, that Commissioner Castellanos would be leaving at 6:20 p.m.

Applicant, Mike Sperry, 1329 First Street, Livingston, made his presentation.

Mr. Sperry stated he would like to open up a bar at the corner of "B" and Main Streets. The Larks family has owned this building for over 30 years. They were long time residents of Livingston, but they are now living in San Diego County so they were unable to attend this meeting.

Mr. Sperry came before the Planning Commission in April 2011 when the Commission reviewed and discussed Footnote I of Title 5, Chapter 3, Table 3, requiring alcohol served by the glass uses to be a minimum of 1,000 feet apart in the Downtown Commercial District (DTC). At that time, the Planning Commission supported his project, although it was later shot down by the City Council.

In July 2011, Mr. Sperry contacted City staff and told them he wanted to open up a nigh club at 444 Main Street. He was told he could not do so because he was within 1,000 feet of another business selling alcohol by the glass. When the Alcohol and Beverage Control Department (ABC) revoked the alcohol license for El Diamante Bar in January 2011, he saw this as a probable deal and he decided to move forward with his plan. Now, Director Kenney says parking is an issue, but parking has been an ongoing issue at this facility for years, yet previous people have been allowed to open up. This is nothing new. It is not a new building; he is just a new business. Many people in the audience can testify to this parking issue he is dealing with now.

Mr. Sperry stated he has been a long time resident of Livingston and he has seen good and bad things come and go. One of the things gone is the downtown parking. There used to be a parking lot in the back of the little shops that were located at the Rite Aid site on Main Street, which was used by all the downtown businesses and it was eliminated when the City sold the property to Rite Aid. Now, he stands before the Planning Commission dealing with parking issues.

Most people know that clubs/bars have most of their clientele after dark, so he thinks he will have no immediate impact to the surrounding areas. When he discussed this issue with Director Kenney, they were looking at approximately sixty (60) parking spaces, but now she is saying eighty-five (85) spaces. Rite Aid parking lot takes up a whole block and it only has fifty-nine (59) parking spaces.

He added that Director Kenney classified his business as bar/cocktail lounge, which requires one (1) parking space per fifty (50) sq. ft., but there are other uses that require one (1) parking space per fifty (50) sq. ft.

Director Kenney said the other uses that require one (1) parking space per 50 sq. ft. are clubs, lodges and restaurants.

Mr. Sperry said he doesn’t see how he can be grouped together with lodges or restaurants. To him a lodge is something like the VFW Hall.

Mr. Sperry said he knows that Livingston had a major issue with bars at some point because his father worked at the Livingston Police Department and dealt with it, but this will not be the case with his business. He has a clean record of seven (7) years. He has dealt with Merced County Health Department and with the Sheriff’s Department and Livingston Police Department and they support him. When he went to the City Council in May 2011, Interim Chief of Police Chris Soria stood up and spoke favorably about him. Several of the Sheriff’s Department upper commanders also support him. The streets of Livingston are his realm; he grew up here and he wants to stay here. Other people that have come before the City Council and Planning Commission are not long standing members of Livingston, so they are willing to go somewhere else, but he doesn’t want to
go anywhere else. This is his home.

Some people are targeting the issue of minors. It’s a hard core serious issue with underage drinking, but the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) has no lee way for selling to minors. Almost every restaurant in town sells alcohol by the glass. He feels there is a higher risk for minors having access to alcohol at some of these places than at his bar. He has seen kids drinking while their mother goes to the bathroom, but in his facility, they cannot do that because minors are not allowed in there. He has a safer environment than some of these local businesses do.

Director Kenney said there are three (3) establishments in the DTC now that sell alcohol by the
glass.

Mr. Sperry said he has addressed the parking issues with various people in the community that have large parking lots and asked if he can use their lots and they are not concerned with him, but they are concerned with the interactions they are going to have with the City.

Mr. Sperry asked the Planning Commission for a 3-year waiver for parking. In three years, he will have a game plan. Maybe by then the City has erected a parking facility that he can buy spaces from; or maybe somebody will allow him to use their facility. This is not a quick fix and it’s a long standing issue that has been pushed aside. He feels the reason this facility has been closed for so long is mainly due to lack of parking.

Mr. Sperry asked Commissioner Castellanos if there was anything he would like him to address before he had to leave.

Mr. Castellanos commented that as a realtor, he has looked at that building and wondered why nobody wanted to open up a business there. Then he thought about the parking and noticed there is no parking anywhere. He said his recommendation to the City Council would be to have some flexibility. We need businesses in the City. There has been nothing there for years. If we don’t allow people to open up, they will go to another city. We need the people to spend the money in our City so we can keep tax dollars here. He added that he is not against alcohol establishments, but feels they should be operated by someone who can take full responsibility.

Mr. Sperry said he agrees wholeheartedly with Commissioner Castellanos to keep the dollars in the City and in this County. As far as the responsibility level, he has it and he is willing to bring several local law officials in front of the Planning Commission and City Council to testify on his behalf. He knows he will have to answer to them as well as other government bodies. It is very serious business. He thinks being in the middle of town is great because people can walk there. They don’t have to spend gas money to go out. He plans to paint the building and make the exterior look good. He will not let the City down.

Commissioner Castellanos said he feels the City Council has to do some adjustments on the parking requirements. Maybe Rite Aid will allow Mr. Sperry to use its parking facility after hours or he may be able to use the lot across the street.

Mike Sperry said he feels the Planning Commission has the authority to act on this; it does not have to move on to the City Council.

Director Kenney clarified that this meeting has only been advertised as a presentation; they cannot vote on this item tonight.

Director Kenney explained that in discussions with the City Attorneys, they think they came up with one way the Planning Commission can take a look at this – LMC 5-6-1 (D) states, "… ..the Planning Commission may revoke or modify any conditional use permit, occupancy permit, or variance on one or more grounds; 2. The use for which the approval was granted is not being exercised; 3. The use for which the approval was granted has ceased or has been suspended for one year or more. By possibly directing staff to bring the 2001 Conditional Use Permit for 444 Main Street to the Planning Commission, they would be able to look at possibly adding a
condition that involves parking. There is now a condition on parking in that CUP, but there are other conditions, to. They needed a dance permit in order to hold the live music, and they needed to be in compliance with ABC. Calling the CUP for possible modification is one way the Planning Commission can take a look at this.

Commissioner Castellanos said this is a big issue and feels they should look at it carefully.

Director Kenny stated they have to look at the parking. Mr. Sperry mentioned before he had spoken with someone who has parking available about using it after 5:00 p.m., but that didn’t work out. He also looked at a vacant lot nearby, but the City Engineer says it is a State requirement that it be paved and Mr. Sperry feels it is too big of an expense.

Mr. Sperry stated the lot he looked at is across from Frontier Communications. It is already graveled and has curb side access and it is at walking distance to the bar, but the City Engineer said it has to be paved and the cost is ridiculous.

Commissioner Soria asked Mr. Sperry if he has tried to talk to Fortuna’s about using their parking lot. They have parking in the back and on the side that maybe he can use.

Commissioner Castellanos mentioned there is another parking lot next to the Dollar Store that does not belong to that store. This would be another option and it is also at walking distance.

Mike Sperry said that lot is owned by Mr. Escobedo and he wants too much for it. He added that in the current conditions that the State of California is in, trying to secure a loan for any type of venture is next to impossible, so he has to be very careful. Every dollar that he spends is a dollar that is out of his savings.

Mr. Sperry said he is not trying to create an issue or drag this on and cost the City money. It is really the fair thing to do. He has spoken to several business owners in this town and they think his business would beabsolutely ludicrous and they think the City is not dealing with something crazy. He really feels he can do this.

Commissioner Soria stated he can see negotiating some in-lieu parking fees, but he cannot see waiving the parking for three (3) years. There are businesses out there that have paid in-lieu parking fees in the past and he feels that if other businesses have dealt with the parking issue, Mr. Sperry needs to deal with it too.

Mike Sperry said the City has lost many businesses due to this parking issue. The City has not provided for the business owners. They have received money and put it wherever they wanted to. They have failed to build a parking structure. He asked where the monies that have been collected for in-lieu parking are. They have gone into a general fund that originally was supposed to be set aside and accrue interest for the possibility of building a parking structure.

Director Kenney said she had asked Finance Director Lewis (before she retired) how much was in the parking structure account and Ms. Lewis informed her that she had not seen that line item the whole time she was working with the City, so it is a possibility that if any in-lieu monies were collected, they could have gone into the General Fund.

Discussion followed.

Commissioner Soria asked Director Kenney if she had documentation of issues that occurred when the Club Tequila was open.

Director Kenney replied she did have some documentation in the files that she could submit as attachments to the staff report should they want to reopen CUP 2001-16.

Vice-Chair Mendoza remembers that before Rite Aid was built all the small businesses there and across the street where able to use the parking lot in the back. It is his understanding that when Rite Aid was going to be built, they had some kind of agreement that all those businesses were going to be able to use the Rite Aid parking lot. He asked Director Kenney if the City had any documentation on that.

Director Kenney said she has been looking for documentation since she has been working with Mr. Sperry and has not found anything to this point.

Vice-Chair Mendoza stated he worked with Fuentes Market for many years, from when it used to be across the railroad tracks to when it moved to where Rite Aid is now. He did most of their paperwork and he does not recall ever making any payments to the City for in-lieu parking.

Mr. Sperry said the City for a long time has had a very poor system of organization. He was told that a lot of information disappeared as it got put into the computer back when they transferred it into the computer system. He added that he is looking for blueprints right now and he thinks the City should have them, but they cannot find them.

Director Kenney stated the City does not keep open files. Usually within six months after a project is built, City staff either has the developer come back for his plans or they get thrown away.

Mr. Sperry asked the Planning Commission to work with him. He is not trying to open a tire recycling facility, a nuclear disposal site, or something that is real harmful. He asked that they give him a little ground.

Commissioner H. Bains asked Mr. Sperry what is his parking plan. If he opens up and he has 20-30 cars, where will they park?

Mr. Sperry replied they would park everywhere. He cannot mandate where people are going to park. People park at the Rite Aid parking lot all the time. Everyone parks where there is a spot. He added that he has not given Director Kenney a plan because he does not want to waste her time with a plan that won’t work. That’s why he is asking the Planning Commission to put a waiver in place for three years.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains asked Director Kenney what parking guidelines the Club Tequila went by.

Director Kenney said it was the 2001 Conditional Use Permit and they had to come back several times for the Planning Commission to review for parking and loitering problems and to adjust their conditions of approval.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains asked if they could bring back the Conditional Use Permit and make a modification on that for one or two years if they wanted to.

Director Kenney replied they could bring back the CUP for modification and to add any conditions; however, they would have to be reviewed by the City Attorney for fairness and legality.

Chair Flores opened the item for public comment at 6:45 p.m.

Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, Livingston, said she is not opposed to opening a bar as long as there is a plan in place and it’s the right plan and it’s on paper and they are all in agreement and everybody is happy about it, but when she sees an agenda item for a presentation concerning a parking plan for a proposed business at 444 Main Street, she comes to the meeting with the idea that she is going to see or hear about this specific plan: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 4; a, b, c, d; this is what I have; this is what I need; these are some of the things I’m going to do to get to that point, and not hear about a lot of history. The agenda was about a plan and so she expects to see a plan.

Ralph Mull, 1445 First Street, Livingston, said he has seen this happening a long time ago. Commissioner Soria knows it and the City of Livingston knows it. Back when they changed parking on Main Street from diagonal to parallel, they lost about sixty (60) spaces. That was the whole reason that parking lot was built behind Kamp’s store where it’s now Rite Aid. Now the City has sold that property off to Rite Aid knowing that they had no parking – shame on the City for not paying attention. Now they are going to pound it off on this poor business man that is trying to open a business. He added that he does not drink and is not a fan of a bar, but he thinks it
would be nice to have a sports bar in town – somewhere different to go to other than Geneo’s or the Blueberry Hill Cafe. There is currently nothing there. Mr. Sperry has shown a good track record of running a bar.

Mr. Mull said he offered Mr. Sperry his property so he can open that club and generate more revenue for the City, but if parking is an issue and they are going to charge every business man that comes into town for parking, they are going to walk away. There was going to be a dentist office on "B" Street across from the bar and what happened? He did not want to pay $1,500 a space to the City and he doesn’t blame him. He shouldn’t have to when they had a perfectly good parking lot that the City sold off.

Chair Flores, closed the public comment period at 6:52 p.m.

Mr. Sperry said he attended the first Livingston Business Association/Chamber of Commerce workshop on November 7th. The purpose of this workshop is to improve the downtown and bring more businesses. They discussed topics such as beautification and downtown parking issues. It’s the hot topic. This is something that can possibly be addressed with some type of parking structure within the next year or two. He strongly encouraged everyone to come to the next Chamber meeting on December 1st. It starts at 6:00 p.m. at the Council Chambers.

Mr. Sperry said Director Kenney informed him that staff can possibly bring the CUP back to the next Planning Commission meeting.

Director Kenney clarified the Planning Commission could direct staff to bring CUP 2001-16 to their next meeting. The Use Permit could be modified by the Planning Commission, but it has to be public noticed.

Chair Flores asked the Planning Commission if they want to give staff direction to bring back the CUP and vote on it.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains thinks they should bring back the CUP so they can make some modifications to it.

The Planning Commission agreed, by consensus, to bring back CUP 2001-16 to their next meeting of Tuesday, December 13, 2011, for discussion and action.

Director Kenney noted for clarification purposes:
Mr. Sperry did do a presentation.

• Mr. Sperry did not submit the requested parking plan due to the issues that he discussed during the presentation.

• Staff is working with the City Attorneys looking at some of the City’s issues on this, as well as options involved in the CUP, and also trying to determine if the in-lieu parking runs with the land or not.

• Staff will bring this back to the Planning Commission at their December 13t" meeting.

Mr. Sperry asked if this is the soonest they can bring this item back.

Director Kenney replied that because of the public noticing requirements, she needs at least 2 1/2 weeks.

Discussion followed.

Commissioner Soria would like the Planning Commission to take a field trip to see the inside of the building.

Director Kenney said it would also require public noticing if they want to take that field trip.

Director Kenney said she would look at her calendar and speak with the City Attorneys and if she had an alternate date, she would give Mr. Sperry a call.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Chair Flores opened the public comment period at 7:02 p.m.

Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, Livingston

At the budget workshop, it was brought up to move the Senior Center over to the building next door to the Council Chambers. She is curious as to what would have to be done to bring that building up to code in order to make it habitable so that the City could use it and once the City knows what it needs, then maybe the City Manager can go after a grant to actually get the plans to pay for it.

Director Kenney said that building needs a lot of work. The taco truck was hoping to plug into the electricity in that building, but it is substandard and the City Engineer would not allow it. The City Inspector checked it, as well, and said they would have to do a complete rewire of the building. She believes there are also some issues with some leaking of areas to the roof and other major things that need to be done. She added that when the City purchased that building it was with the intent to demolish it.

Chair Flores closed the public comment period at 7:05 p.m.

REPORTS

Planning Commissioners

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains

• Livingston Rotary Club is hosting its annual crab feed at the Livingston Pentecost Hall Saturday, November 12, 2011. Tickets can be purchased at Livingston True Value Hardware or from any Rotarian. They have a real good turn out every year and a lot of folks look forward to it.

Commissioner H. Bains
Nothing to report.

Commissioner Soria

Wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving Day. Vice-Chair Mendoza

• Thanked the local businesses who donated to the Livingston High School band.

Chair Flores

• The Merced County Area Agency on Aging is having an event on Thursday,

November 17`h, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., at the Veterans’ Memorial Hall in Livingston. This event is for senior citizens and those who want to possibly reduce their PG&E bill. They will provide free breakfast for the seniors.

• A resident asked him about the food trucks (restaurants on wheels) and why only two are allowed in town.

Director Kenney explained that City code only allows one truck per 5,000 in population. The City currently has two trucks and is very close to reaching 15,000 in population for a third truck. The business license department has created a waiting list for the people who are interested in the third truck.

• Wished everyone a happy Veterans’ Day.

• Asked staff if there was a final decision about the December 5th Joint City Council/Planning Commission goal setting special meeting.

Director Kenney replied she heard that everybody that was contacted was available on December 5th, so it looks like it’s a go. The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m.

Staff Reports

Community Development Director Kenney

• The second workshop of the Livingston Business Association/Chamber of Commerce will be held on December 1st, at 6:00 p.m., in the City Council Chambers. Each of the people present at the first workshop was asked to bring one or two current or potential business owners with them to the next meeting, so if anyone gets an invitation, please come. They had a really good speaker at the first workshop from the Fresno Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. They shared information about some programs that they can share with Livingston. One of the programs is a five-week course where they come in and help business owners put together their business plan. There is a small town outside of Fresno they just finished with; they had 23 business owners with brand new business plans. They are doing some great things, so hopefully they can also bring those types of services and programs to the businesses in Livingston as well.

Administrative Assistant Arredondo
Nothing to report.

ADJOURNMENT

The regular meeting was adjourned by consensus at 7:11 p.m. APPROVED: December 13, 2011

Chair, LUIS ENRIQUE FLORES Secretary of the Planning Commission,

DONNA M. KENNEY

The written meeting minutes reflect a summary ofspecific actions taken by the Planning Commission. They do not necessarily reflect all of the comments or dialogue leading up to the action. All meetings are digitally recorded and are an official record of the meeting’s proceedings. Digitally recorded verbatim minutes are available, upon request, and may be obtained at Livingston City Hall.

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