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Former A&W Site Moves Forward

Campbell City Council approved the Planning Commission's recommendations for the site located on Winchester Boulevard and Rincon Avenue.

The site at the corner of Winchester Boulevard and Rincon Avenue has sat vacant for the last decade and the site’s developer told Campbell City Council that unless they made certain exceptions, it may remain vacant for much longer.

“I purchased this project from another local developer who received this approval,” said Scott Plautz, representative for the applicant. “It was economically and fiscally impossible for them to do. The numbers are really tight right now. Every dime that is imposed on this project … We will put a for sale sign like the previous developer and it can sit for another six years.”

The comments were in regards to conditions for approval made by the Campbell Planning Commission on May 22.  In order to move forward, the commission said the applicant needed to relocate the electrical pedestal and traffic control box from Winchester Boulevard to Rincon Avenue and move the existing traffic light pole in order to make a “bulb out” that would include an ADA ramp.

The applicant came back and said their estimate of the work was about $90,000 but city staff said it was closer to $20-25,000. The applicant asked council at the June 19 meeting to either remove this condition or help out with the cost but Campbell Interim Community Development Director Paul Kermoyan said the issue was a fundamental one.

“What is the obligation of planned developments to perform public improvements?” Kermoyan said. “The city isn’t some company. We are a public entity. Should the public subsidize the development? This is the practice of the city, consistent to state law and any other city.”

Councilman Jeff Cristina was first at bat with comments on the applicant's presentation and requests and said he was reading “between the lines” with this particular project and applicant.

“The developer’s costs and financial qualms are not the city’s to bear,” Cristina said. “We have a plan, a community vision and a good developer will do their due diligence. These issues are coming to us to save a couple bucks. I don’t feel like we should be eating these costs.”

After much discussion, the council voted 3-2, with Campbell Vice Mayor Evan Low and Councilman Rich Waterman dissenting, to approve the project with the conditions recommended by the planning commission. 

A Development, Six Years In

In November 2006, a project to construct a one-story commercial building at the former A&W site at 2135 Winchester Boulevard was approved. 

Originally the project was set to be a 5,488 square-foot commercial building with four separate facades. The developer did not develop and the approval expired.

In 2009, the  was approved, changing the requirements of developers along Winchester Boulevard. The main objective of the master plan is to improve the overall image and function of the streetscape along the busy corridor, making the boulevard pedestrian-friendly.

Along with these requirements are the relocation of current utility cabinets from Winchester to Rincon, the addition of bulb outs and ADA ramps and street trees, all of which were sources of contention at the June 19 meeting.

The current applicant reapplied in 2011 and the project, in order to conform to the newly approved master plan was retooled.

Entryways were made in the front of the building, facing Winchester Boulevard and parking was placed in the back, with access to the front entries through a breezeway between the two buildings as per the master plan.

Four trees will be removed, including two protected Redwoods and will be replaced with 10 new trees: Peppermint, Maple, Crape Myrtle and Flowering Pears.

The additional cost of relocating the utility boxes in order to expand the sidewalk to 15 feet and provide ADA-compliant ramps was something the developer did not want to do.

"I think the master plan is a good document for Campbell," Rodrigues said at the meeting. "It looks to the future, talks to pedestrian connection and architecture. I would really try to look at the master plan as a living document; guidelines. With good guidelines comes good design. This project is significantly better than what we approved in 2006 but the master plan did add to the cost."

The applicant argued that it should not have the same infrastructure imrovement requirements as neighboring because it is a much smaller project.

Councilman Waterman noted that he was concerned about this particular site.

“My concern … this is Winchester. This isn’t Bascom or downtown,” Waterman said. “It’s an eye sore. Yes it would be nice to have this idyllic Master Plan but this is one of the few times we are talking about development where there is a lot of neighborhood approval for it.”

Just Dandy June 26, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Do what you have to to get this project moving! What a terrible eyesore this has been for our city. Those arriving in Campbell from the south are greeted with this abandoned blight & I'm disgusted that guests to our home have to pass this mess. It makes our neighborhood look dangerous & unwelcoming. Let's make this & other abandoned lots EASIER to develop, not harder.
Mayra Flores de Marcotte June 26, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Thanks for your comment, Just Dandy. Your concerns were something that was brought up in the meeting and many neighbors shared the same thoughts on the blights and abandoned look. Did you agree with the council's decision? How would you have done it differently?
Michael Putnam June 26, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I think it's important for the City to be consistent with what assistance it gives or doesn't give to any tenant improvement projects mandated. If the current owner / developer is being told they have to do something that no other developer on Winchester etc. is, than considerations should be given to share some of the costs. However, if these requirements are part of the Master Plan (That was voted on and approved by the City) than the City with major budget concerns of its own should not be subsidizing these improvements. I agree with Just Dandy that the current site looks really bad and has, for way too long, however I don't believe in bowing to pressure or threats from the developer to subsidize the improvements or else they will let it sit empty and blighted for another however many years. The site was purchased as an investment and I'm sure even with the additional costs associated with the city requirements the owners will do fine. If they want to leave it empty, I say condemn the site, take it over and sell it to someone who has the resources to turn into something that will benefit the whole community.
Deb R June 27, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Sure hope the issues can get resolved so this eyesore can evolve into a welcoming business for folks traveling down Winchester Blvd...it's time.
Cindy Herns June 27, 2012 at 04:01 PM
If the owner says it will cost $90,000 and the council says $20,000 to $25,000 then let's see both of them prove what they say. Things will look a lot clearer that way!
Alan Zisser July 02, 2012 at 11:40 PM
I think it is right for council to be consistent with the master plan. I am like many others who live in the area, bothered by this blighted property that has been this way for so many years. What I would like to see is something done innovatively with unused properties like this. It seems to me that the owner should have an obligation to keep the property in some reasonable condition (clean, litter and weed free), even if it is unused. It reminds me of the closed Oddfellows property downtown, where no effort was made to keep the landscaping nice, right in the middle of downtown. If there are no regulations for this, maybe there should be. I also see some businesses on Winchester that look blighted because they don't keep up their landscaping, don't clean up the litter, and let the weeds take over. If Winchester is supposed to be more boulevard-looking and pedestrian friendly, maybe business and property owners should be pressed to cleanup around their properties.
Mayra Flores de Marcotte July 02, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Good points, Alan! I will take a look into what the city's code enforcement policies are with both closed and open properties (particularly along Winchester) and report back what I find out. Thanks for keeping the conversation going!

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