A six-acre parcel of land south of Clark Avenue in Orcutt is the site of a proposed shopping center with a grocery store, a gas station and more.
A six-acre parcel of land south of Clark Avenue in Orcutt is the site of a proposed shopping center with a grocery store, a gas station and more. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A proposal to add a grocery store, a restaurant and a gas station at the eastern edge of Orcutt received approval from the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on Wednesday after discussions about the traffic, road improvements and future development nearby.

The commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the Orcutt Gateway Retail Commercial Center Project after more than an hour of discussion. Commissioner Dan Blough recused himself from the discussion and the vote since he has ties to a nearby development.

The project, proposed by The Minson Co., called for a new shopping center on six acres south of Clark Avenue between Highway 101 and Stillwell Road. The land also is part of an area dubbed Key Site 2 in the Orcutt Community Plan, a blueprint spelling out future development for the community.

The developer proposed 42,921 square feet of retail space to include a grocery store, a fast-food restaurant with a drive-through operation, a building with more commercial space and a gas station with 12 fuel pumps, a convenience store and a car wash.

Access would be provided from driveways on Clark Avenue, which also would see a traffic signal added at a new intersection that eventually would align to the development on the north side of Clark Avenue, or land labeled Key Site 1.

The commission’s discussions centered on improvements to Clark Avenue and creation of the new intersection — along with the costs and timeline for those additions.

But Assistant Director Jeff Wilson reminded the planning commissioners that Wednesday’s item focused on one project with other developments expected to spur their own road improvements.

“What we’re doing today is this is the first puzzle piece of the development in that area,” Wilson said. 

Wednesday’s presentation included road improvements with dimensions that would accommodate traffic for a full buildout of all of the sites, Wilson said. 

Orcutt Gateway project

The Orcutt Gateway project is proposed for land south of Clark Avenue. (Contributed photo)

However, the Orcutt Gateway applicant would be responsible only for improvements up to the center of Clark Avenue while development of Key Site 1 would spur other improvements to complete the new intersection.

The location of the proposed new road and intersection also raised questions from commissioners.

“The Orcutt Community Plan requires that the developers of Key Sites 1 and 2 to work together to come up an intersection alignment that’s at the preferred access point that works for both projects,” said staff planner Dana Eady, adding that an application for Key Site 1 remains under review. 

A road, essentially a long driveway, to access the Sunny Hills Mobile Home Park would remain open initially but would be changed to restrict traffic to making only right turns into and out of the property because of the new intersection a short distance away.

Eventually, plans call for connecting the Sunny Hills road to the new road so residents can enter and exist Clark Avenue as the intersection with a traffic signal.

The commissioners also approved a modified setback at the rear of the property — 25 feet to 10 feet, prohibiting loading docks from being located near the residential neighbors. 

“By moving the building closer to the mobile home park, we’re actually giving them more privacy because they don’t have loading docks that they have to listen to, correct?” asked Chairman John Parke, who represents the Third District. “That’s a positive thing I think, for the community.”

Neighbors from nearby mobile home parks raised assorted concerns, including one woman’s objections to the applicant’s request for extended street-sweeping hours of the parking lot. 

Staff initially recommended that cleaning occur between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends; the applicant had sought from 6 a.m. to midnight.

“I am sensitive to the noise that would create at various times. I don’t care if it’s in front of the building or not, but I think the idea of doing that between 9 p.m. and midnight is way too interruptive to the surrounding and existing neighbors,” First District Commissioner Michael Cooney said. 

Fourth District Commissioner Larry Ferini suggested allowing the parking lot cleaning to occur between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., which his colleagues approved.

Meanwhile, construction has started for an unrelated smaller development at the corner East Clark Avenue and Stillwell Road. That project is adjacent to the Orcutt Gateway Center.

Key Site 1’s proposal for the Orcutt Marketplace, which is in the early review stages, calls for development of a 422,000-square-foot, mixed-use residential/commercial shopping center on the north side of Clark Avenue, just west of Highway 101.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.