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Ripon aims to get a bit friendlier for bigger retail businesses
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RIPON – During his recent campaign, Chuck Winn met with plenty of folks around town.

Much to his chagrin, Winn, who was successfully re-elected to his seat on the Ripon City Council, found that many appeared quite interested in the possibility of bringing in new businesses.

He made reference to that at last Tuesday’s Council session during the amendment of the “Big Box” ordinance.

Ripon took a step forward at becoming more commercial-friendly, with the council agreeing on the committee-recommended changes following a public hearing.

A task force was formed earlier this year. Members included Councilmen Garry Krebbs and Charlie Gay, City Manager Leon Compton and Director of Planning Ken Zuidervaart. They met on several occasions within the past eight months, studying and reviewing the different codes pertaining to regional retail establishments and proposing changes.

“It’s not just about ‘big box’ but every business, from the small to the big,” Winn said.

Wal-Mart, for one, had expressed an interest in moving to the undeveloped area near the Jack Tone Road interchange in recent years. Council said that the draft amendment wasn’t necessarily geared at attracting the No. 1 retailer in the world to Ripon.

They strongly believe that new businesses can successfully co-exist with ones already in place, especially with neighboring Manteca and Salida continuing to bring in major retailers. Both are adjacent to Ripon’s sphere of influence.

“We need to expand our tax base,” Mayor Elden ‘Red’ Nutt said.

He and his colleague shop regularly at Schemper’s Ace Hardware for quality products and service.

 “But for the big things, we have to go out of town,” Nutt said.

He added, “We’re not interested in becoming another Manteca. But our homes are here and we need to shop here instead of our neighbors.”

Among the changes to the Development Code (Title 16), Council agreed, 5-0, on the following:

•Remove the requirement that a regional retail project must prepare an Environmental Impact Report. The only exception would be for those projects that may pose a significant effect on the environment.

•Increased the acreage size for developing in the community commercial district and the regional commercial district from 10 acres to 15 acres, and the square footage of the structure at 100,000. The SaveMart Center, for example, is community commercial, and is located on 10.35 acres, with the total square footage of that building at about 80,000.

•Take out the section pertaining to an Abandoned Building Surety Bond. This requirement was targeted at any regional building that sat empty for one year or more, enacting the steps towards demolishing the structure.

•Scratch the public transit section, with such stops already being determined by the city engineers during the site review process for any project.

• Remove the employee off-street parking area section. This requirement was for regional retail projects to provide employee parking areas separate from that of customer parking, but many commercial projects already take that into account.

Council, in addition, agreed on a 500-foot buffer rather than 1,000, as recommended by the committee, between “big box” retailers and single-family residentially zoned property.

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