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Flap over used car lot & landscaping continues

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Flap over used car lot & landscaping continues

Thomas Auto Sales on East Yosemite Avenue near Powers Avenue.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED January 18, 2009 1:08 a.m.
Owners of the Central Valley Motors — a used car lot that expanded its operations next door into the old Valero gas station at Alameda and North Main streets — believe they are being treated unfairly by the city when it comes to landscaping requirements.

The Manteca Planning Commission agreed with city staff that said municipal rules allowing car lots under use permits in commercial zones require landscaping along the 10 feet nearest the back of the sidewalk along both North Main as well as Alameda and to provide 10 percent landscaping for the entire site. It also includes 12 percent landscaping on the working area that ultimately will shade 50 percent of the parking lot pavement.

Central Valley Motors, through representative Ben Cantu who is a former senior municipal planner for Manteca, is appealing that decision to the City Council. The issue is before the council Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

“We want to be treated the same as the other used automobile sales lots that have occupied vacated gas station sites in this community,” Cantu noted in a letter.

Staff though, is basing their decision on zoning and not the previous use.

That is why they required Thomas Auto Sales between the Shell station and Big O Tires on East Yosemite Avenue to put in landscaping in front of their car lot.

Yet a former gas station on West Yosemite Avenue — Brothers — was allowed to go in without the same landscaping requirement.

The same rules were in effect when both Thomas and Brothers opened yet there were two different end results.

Cantu wants a variance for his client so he can be treated the same as Brothers and another gas station conversion that now hosts a used car lot minus the landscaping.

Cantu in a letter stated that Community Development Director (Mark) “Nelson, the new community development director, has indicated that granting the variance would establish a precedent.  On what basis does Mr. Nelson come to that conclusion, since he has been in the department for about one year or less?  His conclusion is not based on historic awareness of the community or previous actions taken by the city.  In fact, let it be known, the precedent has already been set, when the city granted the two previous requests.

“The fact is that the zoning ordinance is the same ordinance when the other two used automobile lots occupied the other vacated gas station sites.  The rules are the same and the situation is the same, the only thing different is staff; I submit a change in staff does not automatically change the rules.  If staff wants different rules, then a new ordinance needs to be adopted that reflects their objectives.”

The council must decide to either uphold the Planning Commission in saying the zoning conditions should be superior, agree with Central Valley Motors that gas stations somehow have been treated differently by design or default, or find a possible middle ground.

Central Valley put up steel poles and chain to separate the sidewalk from the car lot. The used cars are parked right up to the sidewalk. They did not secure the required use permit before moving into the former gas station site.

Nelson in a report issued to the council noted that if the variance were granted, it would set a negative precedent for all future commercial development. It also allows for any future use on the site of the former Valero gas station to be exempt from the landscaping requirements because the variance runs with the land, not the use.
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