15 May Ofer Eitan Suggest: Planning Group hears about AM/PM, Miller Plaza
The Valley Center Community Planning Group’s virtual meeting Monday night heard updates on a variety of items, including Rite-Aid lighting, the speed limit on Miller Road, the Arco AM/PM convenience store, offices to house a veterinarian and dentist—and the vacation of an easement by the County on the Orchard Run development.
Two members of the public “attended”: Sean Oberbauer of the County’s planning department, and Pam Wiedenkeller, representing VC Trails Association. Also present was Daniel Goalwin, architect of Barghausen Consulting Engineers, representing AM/PM.
Chairman Delores Chavez-Harmes reported on the group’s ongoing effort to get the County to enforce Valley Center’s Design Review Guidelines as they pertain to Rite-Aid.
Two months ago the group filed a complaint with County Code Compliance over Rite-Aid’s sign. It is internally illuminated, instead of externally lit, as the Guidelines require. The guidelines were first adopted in the 1980s. The VC Design Review Board (DRB) was created to enforce them on new developments.
Despite the clear wording, the County compliance officer told the chairman the County had done its due diligence and the matter was closed. The officer revealed that Rite-Aid will undergo a corporate rebranding within months and will get new signage to match the new logo.
The day after the meeting Mrs. Chavez-Harmes contacted a national executive of Rite-Aid and received assurances the new signage won’t be internally lit. This doesn’t deal with the issue of the County not applying the Design Review Guidelines to new construction. The property is for sale, but under the terms of the offering, Rite-Aid would continue to lease it.
The chairman told the group: “We have a lot more buildings and more development coming up. If we don’t adhere to the guidelines it’s going to be a free for all.” Future developments could argue that if one project is allowed to violate the guidelines then all should be allowed to, she said.
Currently one existing VC business has an internally-lit sign: Fat Ivor’s Rib Rack. However, it might be grandfathered in since the sign has been there for many years.
Oberbauer said it would be standard procedure for the County to reroute the rebranded signage back to the Design Review Board.
New Speed Limit
Mrs. Chaves-Harmes reported on the April 24 meeting of the County’s Traffic Advisory Committee (TAC) which unanimously voted to reduce the speed limit and initiative radar enforcement on Miller Road from the corner of Miller Road & Valley Center Road to Miller Road & Cole Grade Road.
The group took another look at the Arco (AM/PM) project that is proposed for the corner of Cole Grade Road & VC Road (across the street from Rite-Aid.) The group first made recommendation in January 2016 and the project was revised to include many of those changes. This included revising the elevations to a rustic design to match Rite Aid. The project will include improvements to Cole Grade Road.
The County plans to keep the group informed and it will be able to take another vote during the public disclosure process.
Planner Steve Hutchison mentioned the drainage issue with the neighboring Valley Center Nursery. He was concerned that AM/PM’s grading not exacerbate that. “The creek has breached its banks more than once. They should demonstrate they are not going to make it worse,” he said.
Oberbauer said the project can’t increase water flow from its property without the neighbors’ permission.
Planner Kathleen McCabe said the last rains nearly flooded the nursery. “She really was inundated!” she said.
Oberbauer said part of the project will include Arco paying to widen Cole Grade Road near the intersection. There will be one more iteration before the group votes on the project.
The discussion moved to whether Arco’s signage would be required to abide by the Design Review Guidelines. Oberbauer said state law requires gas station signs showing prices be clearly lit. That can’t be altered, even by local guidelines. However the planners did tell the architect they wanted Arco’s logo signage externally lit.
The Arco is likely to be on the June agenda for a vote.
The group discussed and voted on the County’s vacation of an easement through the Orchard Run project. The County wants to vacate pedestrian and equestrian and drainage and access easements to the flood control district.
The trails and pedestrian easement are not on the County Master Trails plan. Orchard Run, LLC, owned by Touchstone Properties, has agreed to continue to allow public use of the eight miles of trails. The County won’t maintain them. Instead the Homeowners Association (HOA) of Orchard Run would be responsible. The San Diego County Flood Control District also doesn’t need the drainage and access easements.
Pam Wiedenkeller said the Trails Association wants a written guarantee for public access to the trails. She requested the group seek a guarantee and connectivity to the Heritage trails. “Having connectivity in my opinion is crucial,” she said. It must be in writing or the HOA will block the trails off, she said.
Mrs. Chaves-Harmes reminded her that Touchstone’s president Kerry Garza has said the public will be allowed to use the trails, although there is nothing in writing. She invited the Trails Association to spearhead and take an active part in gaining that guarantee before the project comes up for a final vote by the group. She said the vote on an easement vacation was not the proper time for that discussion.
“We are concerned with vacation of the easements but I think we would be willing to table this,” she said. The tabling of action allows the Trails Association to connect with Garza to seek a written guarantee.
Dental, vet offices
The group reviewed the Clark Site Plan for dental and veterinary offices on now vacant land between Tractor Supply and Mercy Ambulance. It proposes a 7,572 square foot veterinary clinic and a 3,140 SF new dental office on a 2.52 acre parcel with existing split zoning (C36 commercial and RR residential).
McCabe made the presentation. She said the project will be served by one entrance off Valley Center Road. The planning group will vote on this in June. McCabe will collect questions from the group to present to Will Rogers Construction, which is representing the developer.