By KAREN DASILVA
Despite residents’ protests, the Calimesa Planning Commission approved Monday night a RV fueling station and drive-through retail building adjacent to the new 76 gas station on County Line Road.
Located on the west side of Interstate 10, near the eastbound County Line Road offramp, the property is surrounded by residences though it is zoned for commercial use. Until recently, the property was occupied by a home that was purchased and demolished by applicant County Line Neighborhood Market, LP, which developed the adjacent 76 gas station.
“I am more than a little frustrated that time and time again the planning commissioners and, by proxy, city councilmembers have listened to Calimesa residents’ concerns regarding unethical building repeatedly and done nothing to protect us and our way of life,” said resident Lara Beemer. “In fact, things that were promised or agreed upon in previous meetings were not followed through with. We have a car wash on the wrong side, we don’t have sound barriers, things like that.”
While the planning commission unanimously approved the environmental assessment and the development plan review for the project at the Oct. 12 meeting, the commissioners also changed and added some conditions of approval, based on residents’ concerns, and denied the applicant’s request for a variance for driveways that exceed 40 feet in width, as recommended by staff.
Commissioner Eric Cundieff wanted to know why County Line Neighborhood Market needed wider entries onto the property.
“You said they wanted to have the driveways at 60 feet and the other 55 (feet). What was the reason for that?” Cundieff asked.
Jack Kofdarali, a representative for County Line Neighborhood Market, LP, answered Cundieff’s question.
“Commissioners, you asked about the access variance. What we see here serving a lot is RVs with boats, trailers and anything else,” Kofdarali said. “Those require a pretty wide radius turning.”
“So, the reason you wanted to have it larger than 40 feet was for people towing boats or RVs that kind of thing. But our own traffic study says 40 feet is sufficient, correct?” Cundieff asked.
“Correct,” Planning Manager Kelly Lucia, who presented the item, said in reply. She then added, “Our public works department, our city engineer and our traffic engineer all support a maximum width of 40 feet total.”
Vice Chair Michael Brittingham also had issues with driveways wider than 40 feet, plus concerns about the noise barrier on the western property line only being only four-feet tall. The noise barrier would separate the drive-through lane from homes across the street.
“My other thing would be the wall along the drive-through backside, seeing as we still have neighbors over there,” he said to Kofdarali,. “A four-foot wall, if you are sitting in your car, is not really doing much.
“With the shrubbery and everything else and with cars idling as they are going through there, I would be a little bit annoyed, but that is what we are zoned for and everything else. I would actually like to see that wall bumped up from four feet to maybe six feet, something to give them a solid shield of blocking off. I think that would make a tremendous amount of difference.”
Resident Suzee Wills agreed.
“That sound wall, the people who live on the corner, across from that proposed food place, a four-foot wall, that is not going to do anything,” she said. “That is not a sound wall. That is a crash wall.”
Wills also brought up the lack of signage near the project site to indicate the speed limit is 25 mph and County Line Road quickly dead ends.
“We are getting a lot of people going down our street and turning around, a lot more traffic since the gas station opened too,” Wills said.
Resident Tim Beemer, Lara’s husband, disputed the noise study, saying it did not take into account all of the nearby residences.
“My issue is with the noise study,” he said. “If you look at it, it only takes the two homes on the west side of County Line Lane. It does not look at my home, which is closer. It also does not look at the two residential properties to the north, which are even closer. The study is not adequate.”
Tim Beemer also considered the RV fueling station more of a truck stop.
“This is a truck stop encompassed in a residential neighborhood. There are houses on all three sides. Does the planning commission understand that?” he said in frustration, before citing more diesel fuel stations than gasoline and references by the applicant as reasons to believe the design is for a truck stop.
Emails from residents were also read into the record.
Responding to concerns
Kofdarali was given time to address concerns and issues.
“I would like to address some of the comments because I would like to be a good neighbor,” he said. “She mentioned that speed limit signs in the neighborhood and dead-end signs, I would like to propose putting those in at my cost, if the city would allow me.”
Next, he spoke on the noise barrier.
“When the wall is built, at your request, I would be fine going up to six feet rather than four feet. I am fine with that,” he said to the commission.
The commissioners were satisfied with Kofdarali’s response.
“I am satisfied with the six-foot wall,” Cundieff said. “I think that is a good thing.”
“I am glad to see you coming up to the six-foot level. I would suggest we make good with our neighbors,” said Brittingham, who also reminded residents the property being developed is zoned for commercial use.
Chair Mike Barron was also in agreement regarding the noise barrier.
“I am willing to go for a six-foot wall myself,” he said.
The six-foot wall height for the noise barrier and appropriate signage and striping, at developer’s expense and inspected by the city, were added as conditions of approval, while the applicant’s request for a variance for driveways to exceed 40 feet in width followed staff’s recommendation and was denied.
The Calimesa Planning Commission meets on the second Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Norton Younglove Senior Center, 908 Park Ave. in Calimesa.