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Turlock Planning Approves Family Entertainment Center After Debate

Ten Pin Family Fun Center artist rendition of proposed building design presented at the Turlock Planning Commission Meeting on November 4, 2010.Nearly four hours of discussion at the Planning Commission Meeting took place about rezoning 5.89 acres, located at Monte Vista Avenue and Crowell (near Rite Aide across from CSUS), of high density residential to community commercial with a planned development zoning to accommodate a family fun center, Ten Pin.
 
Since 2005, five different variations of medium to high density housing projects meant to serve CSUS students and staff have been proposed for development on the property while all of them have reportedly failed due to economic viability.
 
The project consists of an approximately 52,000 square foot Family Entertainment Center to include 34 bowling lanes, a 4,000 square foot laser tag area, a game room with approximately 75 games and a prize redemption center, a sports bar with seating for approximately 200 guests including billiards, shuffle board, two outdoor bocce ball courts and outdoor dining. The facility will also have six banquet/party rooms that can host small birthday parties or larger events.

About 17 speakers expressed their support (12) or opposition (5) for allowing Ten Pin Family Fun Center to open and operate at the Monte Vista Avenue property that sets back near a residential neighborhood.
 
The most intense speakers, the DiMartini couple, called in live on speaker phone and complained about what they felt was too much college activity noise already, construction noise, and their quality of life. Myra DeMartini explained she is in bad health with serious ear problems.
 
David Halsey, another residential neighbor, expressed he was excited to see this project versus previously proposed projects such as a 500 unit housing development.
 
Nobody from the public or the Planning Commission spoke against Ten Pin Family Fun Center opening in Turlock but rather addressed the planning issues with the location, changing the property zone from residential to community commercial and if it was consistent with Turlock’s General Plan.

 
To approve the planned development, the Turlock Planning Commission had to make 8 findings including two that Turlock Planning Commissioners could not agree on.
 
The first finding presented a problem right from the start, that the proposed rezoning is consistent with the General Plan.
 
The first finding required for approval of a General Plan Amendment and Rezone request is General Plan consistency. The Planning Commission must find the proposal consistent with the current adopted General Plan.
 
According to City Staff, as proposed, the project represents a significant deviation from the current General Plan and Zoning.
 
The City Staff report went on to say that it is not unusual for projects that are requesting General Plan and zoning changes to require the balancing of competing policies in the General Plan. Ultimately, the Planning Commission and City Council must decide if the applicant’s request, on balance, represents a proper balance between all of the policies and goals of the City’s General Plan and therefore warrants approval.
 
Turlock Planning Commissioner Soraya Fregosi did not believe this project’s location and the rezoning of the land was consistent with Turlock’s General Plan.
 
Turlock Planning Commission Chair Mike Brem also referenced the General Plan Update process currently taking place and pointed out that the community expressed their desire for more entertainment within the city.
 
City Planner Debbie Whitmore stated that the General Plan Update is looking toward specific plans around CSUS and that this project will not be consistent with those plans.
 
Brem made the point that this was his sixth public hearing on this property and that he just can’t buy people’s concerns about the supposed neighborhood impacts as nearby residents have complained about every project while also referencing some of the speakers in favor of the project live in the nearby residential neighborhood.
 
 
The fifth finding, that the public necessity, convenience and general welfare require the proposed amendment, also created a debate among Planning Commissioners.
 
Turlock Planning Commissioner Vice Chair Jeanine Bean could not make the finding of public necessity.
 
Planning Commissioner Soraya Fregosi also could not make the finding in this area.
 
Fregosi made a point referencing how the City made a decision not to have Target built on Geer and Monte Vista and that it ended up working out while being in a great location.
 
“I honestly think they (City Council) made a good decision and I see something very similar… everyone wanted Target but that just wasn’t the place,” said Fregosi. “I think you can argue that we’re looking at something similar.”
 
City staff stated to support the applicant’s request to rezone the property to a Planned Development, the proposal must serve the public necessity, convenience and general welfare of the community. As discussed earlier, this finding hinges on whether the Planning Commission believes that the need for the Ten Pin Fun Center and the recreational opportunities it affords warrants the conversion of this property from residential to non-residential uses given the availability of commercially designated land within the City that could accommodate the use. The applicant has attempted to acquire properly zoned land, but was unsuccessful, leading to this application.
 
 
Some discussion took place in regards to if the site is suitable for the intensity of the proposed use and whether or not the proposed rezoning will cause substantial environmental damage.
 
The family fun center is estimated to create 990 more trips per day than previous planned projects although City Engineer Mike Pitcock reported that traffic studies did not show major impacts to traffic flow ratings.
 
Noise was brought up and ended up focusing not on the noise that customers would bring as they’ll be inside the building but on the construction noise some neighborhood residents complained about as a previous nearby project had Sunday noise complaints. Turlock Planning Commissioner Jeff Hillberg also brought up concerns with the outside bocce ball courts and the potential for noise disturbances as the business was proposed to stay open until 4am. The closing time was also a concern of the Planning Commission.
 
City Planning Staff and the Planning Commission had concerns over the proposed building’s aesthetic design and colors and that the building was not consistent with the Turlock General Plan and other applicable plans and policies adopted by the Turlock City Council.
 
One of the project’s partners, local realtor Jim Theis, offered up mitigation for conditional issues as he said the project would work with whatever the City needed in regards to colors and aesthetics, the business’ hours of operation would be scaled back from 2am to 1am Sunday through Thursday and 2:30am from the proposed 4am on Friday and Saturday with a 6 month provisional trial period. To address some concern over proposed 24 hour special event hours, Theis willingly offered a proposal of 7 days notice to the police department for any day with a special event and that would also be on a 6 month provisional trial period. To address the concerns with noise, Theis proposed that there would be no outside bocce ball after 10pm on Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. There was a guarantee of no Sunday construction for noise provision.
 
“We live here, so we have a vested interest to make things right,” said Theis.
 
After the 6 month provision period, operating conditions will be reviewed by staff at no cost to the applicant and be brought before the Planning Commission for reconsideration.
 
 
While Planning Commissioners unanimously agreed on the operating conditions, some still did no believe all the findings were made.
 
Planning Commissioner Fregosi pointed out that all 8 findings had to be made and there were two that were not agreed upon.
 
“I would say that while we haven’t made … if you read the exact words, we probably have some issues,” said Planning Chair Mike Brem. “But then if we look at the broad context of the community itself, then I’m willing to say that we have satisfied all eight.”
 
“I also too would agree with that, looking at it with a broad brush,” said Planning Commissioner Nick Hackler. “We’re not going to find perfect answers to all the findings but I think if you’re looking at it from a community standpoint that we have found enough to create a higher development for the city.”
 
Planning Commissioner Jeanine Bean was hung up on finding number five, pointing out there was more than enough land already zoned for commercial.
 
Brem referenced a statement by Jim Theis saying that they looked at other commercial properties such as the old Mervyn’s building is on Geer, land at Monte Vista Crossings, the Turlock Auto Mall building, and other properties on Golden State Boulevard, and none of them fit their needs or were economically viable.
 
“I really don’t think that’s within our purview to tell them what we think is a better site than what they’ve chosen,” said Turlock Planning Commissioner Alternative Victor Pedroza. “They’re the business people, they’re the ones who are going to decide where they’re going to make money and what’s the best location for them. I think us asking about alternative sites, I think it’s rhetoric on our part.”
Turlock Planning Commissioner Elvis Dias had concerns that there were other commercial properties available and that it would be difficult to make the findings for number five also.
 
 “I understand that there’s expectations that’s supposed to be residential, yet since 1970 there has not been a residential property, there has not been anything there,” stated Brem. “It’s failed, it’s failed… And sometimes you can’t just make those things happen.”
 
Brem summarized the by saying “I would say this is a higher, better use for the property, for this community, for taxes, for jobs, and everything else than to have it sit there and be nothing.”
 
The Planning Commission voted 5-2 (Fregosi and Bean opposing) to recommend to the City Council a General Plan Amendment and Rezone for the Planned Development, Family Entertainment Center, with the operating conditions noted.
 

Once the land zoning was approved, technical discussion of sign allowances took about 45 minutes. Major compromises from the applicant’s proposal for signage and what the City allows were made. Most of the discussion was based on the City’s sign ordinances of what a shopping center sign includes and that they’re for identifying the center, not so much for advertising every tenant in the shopping center on the street frontage.
 
The signs on Monte Vista Avenue will focus as an identifier for Ten Pin Fun Center, as Ten Pin Family Fun Center will be set back off Monte Vista Avenue. Other tenants will be restricted to wall signage.
 

This project will now go before the City Council for final approval and is expected for a December scheduling. If the project is approved, construction is slated to begin in the spring of 2011 with a completion date of around September or October of 2011.