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Lathrop hopes to snag travel plaza with hotel
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LATHROP — A complicated travel stop proposal that could bring a new hotel and Lathrop’s first gas station west of I-5 cleared a hurdle with the Lathrop City Council Monday night.

The four-member council unanimously approved a request that moved the KSC Travel Plaza project one step closer towards resolution – effectively granting a land use and zoning amendment and agreeing to submit an application to the Local Agency Formation Commission for annexation consideration. Councilwoman Martha Salcedo was absent.

But it’s not yet in the clear.

The project – which was initially approved by the San Joaquin County Planning Commission – hit choppy waters when the City of Lathrop and a separate party filed an appeal back in September of 2010. The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors continued the matter in March, and in September the Lathrop City Council reached a settlement agreement with the project applicant.

The next step in the process for the plaza – which is planning to open with a 5,000-square-foot truck service building, an automotive fueling station and a 10,000-square-foot convenience store – will be facing the private party appeal before the Board of Supervisors on January 10.

Whether that’ll finally clear the contentious atmosphere surrounding the project remains to be seen.

An attorney representing a competing business addressed the council Monday night and took issue with the way that Principal Planner Charlie Mullen introduced the item – noting that the plaza itself was not being considered but rather some technical “paperwork” issues that could clear the way.

In the eyes of Attorney George Petrulakis, introducing the project in such a manner might give some in the public the false impression that they’ll have the chance to speak about some of the environmental aspects of the project at later meetings.

But Petrulakis’ stance was rebuffed by an attorney representing the project applicant that informed the council of a recent California Supreme Court decision that said that said that the a competitor can’t use the California Environmental Quality Act – known as CEQA – as a ruse to make it appear that somebody is not or won’t be in compliance simply for business gain.

The attorney claimed that Petrulakis was simply representing a client that had opened a similar business plaza and didn’t want to see competition coming to town.

According to the plans, a 4,500-square-foot full-service restaurant would be the second phase of the travel center project – if approved – and an 80-room hotel would be built last.