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Council mulls over modifying, revoking permit for Red Onion No. 2
East side building not what was approved
A proposed second Red Onion eatery on the southeast corner of Putnam Avenue and Leggett Street will have to wait. This after the developer of the new building deviated from the original plans approved by the Porterville City Council in 2008.
On Tuesday, the council conducted a public hearing and mulled over whether to have the developer make modifications to the building or revoke the conditional use permit.
The original plans called for the construction of a drive-thru restaurant and a drive-thru coffee kiosk at 815 E. Putnam Ave. City staff spotted the deviations on Feb. 14, during the final inspection of the building, according to Porterville Community Development Director Brad Dunlap. Some components of the building were also out of compliance with the design standards of the city’s zoning ordinance.
The deviations range from the omission of the coffee kiosk, to the absence of an outdoor dining area and tables, to the relocation of the loading zone.
“Basically, what the developer of this property is doing is thumbing their nose at the authority of this body,” Porterville resident Brock Neeley said during the hearing. “In my opinion, I’d give them 60 days to come into full compliance with the original CUP or tear it down because who’s going to stop the next developer? You could end up with a full conglomeration of weird-looking buildings in this town.”
Between July 16, 2012, when the building permits were issued to the developer, and Feb. 14, a building inspector was at the site one time.
“There was a building inspector and regrettably, she didn’t catch the aesthetics of it. She was concerned about the structure and the plumbing and those elements. No excuse, but we only have one inspector and she missed it,” said Baldo Rodriguez, the city’s public works director.
City Councilman Greg Shelton said he wasn’t too concerned about the aesthetics of the building and said he didn’t want to “pick the curtains.” He said he thought getting rid of the coffee kiosk was an improvement and made for better “ingress, egress and parking.”
He and Vice Mayor Pete McCracken agreed there were some conditions, such as installing street lighting, screening roof-mounted mechanical equipment from public view, and ensuring the exterior lighting attached to the building was not facing residential sites, that should be met.
McCracken said he had other concerns.
“This was sold to the council based on the original drawings...I understand the developer changes plans...and the building is not absolutely horrible, but it’s sure not what was sold to the council in 2008. I’m a little concerned — that bothers me,” he said.
Councilman Cam Hamilton was less than pleased with the matter.
“We’re already talking about the concessions we can make — well, bull crap,” he said. “We made a concession when we approved this in the first place. It’s not even close to the project we approved...we’ve been duped. They went and did this on purpose, they didn’t come back and talk to us about any of this — this is wrong. I think it needs to be improved.”
Mayor Virginia Gurrola said she was disappointed.
“The design was brought to the City Council and when you do a CUP, that’s what we expect to see, whether or not there’s somebody there following through,” she said. “I’m very disappointed that we didn’t get the project that the council said yes to.”
Prior to the council’s vote, the developer, Mary McClure, spoke on the issue.
McClure said the coffee kiosk was not built because the fees were “atrocious” and said the buyer of the building didn’t feel it would be feasible. McClure said she sold the building, and has been making modifications to satisfy the owner.
“We keep changing everything, trying to get it to where everybody likes it and it’s been a nightmare, a total nightmare,” she said.
“So he bought the building that did not comply with the CUP,” Gurrola asked McClure.
“Honestly, everyone forgot about the CUP, if you really want to know,” McClure said.
Shelton said he thought it would be a good compromise if the conditions he first mentioned were met, to which City Councilman Brian Ward responded, “I understand but, the thing is, I’ve got someone who wants to start a business and I’m not going to punish them because of...egregious oversight.”
Shelton said he thought any new development on that side of town is an improvement, and noted the property has been vacant for 30 years.
“I can’t argue with that. I’m so thrilled that there’s something being built there. How it happened, I’m not thrilled about. I think that we’re setting a precedent tonight by making this change and if we do, it will come right back with the next person that tries to shortcut,” Hamilton said.
McCracken concurred with Hamilton.
“If we’re not very careful, we’re going to set precedent and we’re going to have a hard time enforcing it in the future,” he said.
The council voted 5-0 to bring the matter back for consideration in two weeks.