The project planned for 1313 E. Main St. would see the construction of a 2,200-square-foot building with a dual-lane drive-through and patio seating areas.
The site now houses Home Motors, which would remain on a smaller area on the eastern side of the lot, but may eventually relocate to Enos Ranch. Part of the car lot’s observation deck and offices would be demolished.
A Starbucks shop now operates at a neighboring location but lacks a drive-through operation.
The location of driveways to access the businesses, including the Dignity Health Wellness Center, and conflicts with traffic in the area near the Highway 101 northbound onramp attracted most of the focus and suggestions during earlier reviews.
The panel voted 4-0 Wednesday to approve the planned development and conditional use permits for the project. Commissioner Maribel Aguilera-Hernandez abstained.
In addition to Marian Regional Medical Center, Mission Hope Cancer Center and numerous medical offices, the intersection sees heavy traffic from Pioneer Valley High School. It’s also fairly close to the Allan Hancock College campus.
The drive-through lanes could accommodate 19 vehicles stacking up, five more than the highest number seen at similar stores in Ventura or Santa Barbara counties, staff said.
“I can see this one getting used a lot with all the people going on to school,” Commissioner Tim Seifert said. “We talked a lot about this in the study session, and the project fits the neighborhood there.”
“I do think this is an improvement,” chairman Robert Dickerson said.
Ken Dalebout, Marian vice president, said they favored the project for a couple of reasons.
“One is that it improves the current driveway situation and traffic flow, in our opinion, to spread it out down the street, so I think it’s an improvement to public safety,” he said. “I think it’s an improvement to the economy of Santa Maria, and as a hospital, a strong economy means a strong hospital, so we’re in favor of that.”
The project would see one full-access driveway on East Main Street between the existing driveways to access Dignity Health’s facility and the car dealership.
The new shared driveway could help remove confusion caused by close driveways to access the parking area for a three-unit building (which currently houses Starbucks and Subway) and the Dignity Health center.
Several months ago, commissioners rejected a different Starbucks proposal that called for tearing down the building at 1201 E. Main St. and creating a new drive-through option. Concerns about worsening traffic congestion at the intersection prompted the denial.
In other business, the commission:
» Unanimously approved the Avante Apartments proposal after agreeing to deduct some aspects of a new bus stop shelter the developer claimed was too costly. The project calls for 86 apartments at the southwest corner of Blosser Road and Carmen Lane. The item was delayed from a previous meeting because of the bus stop shelter.
» Approved an application for a recreational vehicle storage facility on Preisker lane. “Nightmare” traffic at the intersection “abomination” of Preisker Lane and North Broadway and the impact on nearby Highway 101 prompted concerns, but commissioners said it could be the best use at the unique site.