A temporary ban on bargain-basement discount stores in Santa Maria’s downtown area will expire this week after the Santa Maria City Council failed to pass an extension Tuesday.
Council members voted 3-2 to extend the temporary ban, but four votes were needed, according to Larry Appel, director of community development.
Council members Jack Boysen and Terri Zuniga voted against the measure that would have lengthened the temporary ban nine months and built upon the 45-day interim ban ordinance that council unanimously approved Sept. 3.
The temporary ban expires Friday.
The initial temporary ordinance was pushed through after a tiff between Santa Maria officials and National Stores Inc. DBA Fallas Discount Stores, which earlier this year sought an occupancy permit to move into a vacant building the company already owned and renovated at 201 Town Center West.
The occupancy permit was required under current city code because the 85,900-square-foot shopping center space, which formerly housed Mervyn’s, was much larger than the 5,000-square-foot threshold that requires council consent, according to the Downtown Specific Plan area.
In June, the council denied approval of a permit because officials weren’t sure that Fallas was consistent with the goal of the downtown plan, which was approved in 2008 to re-establish downtown Santa Maria as a “destination” and to attract outsiders to the region.
The council eventually approved the permit in August after Fallas threatened legal action, and the store opened this fall.
An extension of the discount store ban ordinance would have remained in effect while staff studied the issue in order to present a permanent regulation on the subject, not necessarily an all-out ban of the retailers.
After the extension failed this week, council members unanimously voted to instruct Appel to continue studying options for development in the city’s downtown plan area.