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Car Wash Conflict for Downtown Santa Maria Resolved

A possible roadblock threatening plans to modernize an old car wash within the Downtown Specific Plan area has been removed as the Santa Maria City Council took another step Tuesday to allow the renovation project.

Greg and Sheri Jordan, owners of the East Chapel Street car wash, had sought to upgrade the facility, but discovered the Downtown Specific Plan required conditions they feared would make the project too costly.

In August, the City Council took the first step to allow the modernization project, but delayed the second reading of the ordinance for two months because the car wash’s owners balked about what they feared would be burdensome conditions.

In the weeks since, the Jordans have met with city staff and gained help from Dave Cross with the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Commission to appease the concerns. 

“I believe those questions have been answered,” Larry Appel, director of the Community Development Department, said Tuesday night. 

Greg Jordan offered praised for the help received from city staff and Cross.

“Everyone has been stellar,” Greg Jordan said. “They’ve come together and things look pretty good. I appreciate that.”

On Tuesday night, the council approved the second reading of the ordinance creating an amendment to allow the car washes in the area with a conditional use permit. The amendment takes effect Nov. 20, and Appel said he expects his office will receive the application soon after that date.

Councilman Jack Boysen said he applauded the City Manager’s Office and Community Development Department for working to solve the concerns.

“I think this is a prime example of where we’ve run into a situation where we ended up with an unintended consequence and we figured out a way to make it right,” Boysen said, also thanking the Jordans and chamber. “It’s a great partnership we have.” added.

Because of its location within the Downtown Specific Plan and not a commercial district, the car wash project requires a conditional use permit instead of a more basic building permit. Complicating matters is the fact the current car washes in the Downtown Specific Plan area are considered legal non-conforming uses.

The amendment now allows new car washes to be built plus existing car washes to be rebuilt.

“Reconstruction of older, existing facilities could be viewed by the surrounding neighborhood as a positive change,” Appel said in his staff report.

On the other hand, a new car wash in the area could be viewed as negative, he added.

Any car wash project would require a conditional use permit which would include neighborhood notification and a public hearing, Appel said in his staff report. 

“This will allow the city to approve or deny individual proposals based on a case-by-case basis depending on neighborhood impacts,” Appel said in the staff report. “In addition, the five-year sunset clause allows the city to prevent proliferation of too many car wash uses in the Bungalow District.”

In another matter, Phil Alvarado, superintendent of the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, outlined the need for Measure T, a $45 million bond on the Nov. 4 ballot to build a new school and complete projects at 19 campuses.

He told of overcrowded conditions at the district’s schools amid skyrocketing growth in recent years. Most Santa Barbara County schools average a student population of 441, while several of Santa Maria-Bonita’s have topped 1,000. This means a campus like Adam Elementary School has eight shifts to serve lunch to all of its students, he added.

The measure needs more than 55 percent of the voters' approval to pass, Alvarado said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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