Council also reviews proposed hotel/shopping center on Highway 246 and Avenue of Flags

The Buellton City Council met for its regular meeting on Thursday, April 11, without Mayor Dave King, so Vice Mayor David Silva conducted the proceedings through most of the meeting as the councilmembers discussed a couple of business items involved proposed parking policy changes.

The council also conducted a conceptual review of the proposed “Highway 246 Commercial Center,” which included an eye-catching drive-thru coffee shop.

After approval of the Consent Calendar, and a proclamation recognizing National Donate Life Month — promoting organ donation — the council went ahead with Business Item 7, the conceptual review. Councilmember Hudson Hornick recused himself from the item, but was allowed to stay and listen to the presentation.

Contract City Planner Irma Tucker introduced the item and described the “Highway 246 Commercial Center,” which has been proposed by applicant Lonnie Roy.

Tucker said the center, located at 20 E. Highway 246 and 220 Avenue of Flags (north of the Flying Flags RV Park and Ellen’s Pancake House) would consist of a space-themed hotel with 24 units, a market/deli with an art deco architecture, and a drive-thru coffee shop that promises to get the attention of passersby.

The coffee shop would have a giant coffee pot with an opening to let customers’ cars through as part of the drive-thru.

Tucker said a drive-thru is not allowed on that parcel, but an amendment could be made to the plan to allow for it.

The reaction from the council was mostly positive, with Silva calling it “shockingly exciting” and saying “it would be fun to say I drove through a coffee pot.” Councilmember John Sanchez liked the fact that any drive-thru line would be contained in the center’s parking. “I’m pro drive-thru,” he said.

Councilmembers’ comments would be forwarded to the Planning Commission.

Business Item 7 was to discuss potential truck parking and the restriping of South Avenue of Flags jointly, but Sanchez requested the two aspects be discussed separately.

Sanchez had suggested an ordinance change that would make it legal for semi-trucks or other large vehicles to park in a part of the road that straddled the right lane leading to Ellen’s Pancake House and the left lane leading to Highway 246. The councilmember said he’s seen truck drivers use the space just south of the median with no trouble.

Public works director Rose Hess in her presentation said the city ordinance doesn’t allow for any vehicles to park more than 18 inches from the curb, and suggested an area on the curb where semi-trucks could be parked. However, Sanchez said he just wanted to legalize parking on the street area; he was not intending to have any existing parking taken out.

Hess said that was not an option, saying there potential issues with letting anyone park at the spot Sanchez proposed. In public comment, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Valencia backed Hess, saying that changing the 18-inch ordinance would open up the city to liability if there was an accident.

The other three councilmembers also agreed that the proposed parking area was not a good idea.

“It doesn’t seem like something that would work; I’d be against it,” Silva said. “We should look at a place for truck parking but not there — if engineers and law enforcement say its wrong, that’s saying something.”

Council directed staff not to pursue the parking proposal, and councilmembers then started discussion on the restriping of South Avenue of Flags.

Hess proposed modifications to narrow the two-lane road to one in front of Flying Flags going northbound, and Shadow Mountain Drive going southbound.

Sanchez pointed out there was no accomodation for people turning into the RV park, and said that would potentially back up northbound traffic. He suggested a right-turn lane into Flying Flags, but as the discussion continued admitted he just was not in favor of narrowing the road to one lane.

Hornick said he liked the idea of the right-turn lane, but was in favor of one lane in each direction.

“I agree that [people turning into Flying Flags] could be a problem, but I like the one-lane idea,” he said. “I see it as more pedestrian friendly.”

Sanchez then continued his opposition to the one-lane idea in talking about the southbound lane.

“People going right [on Shadow Mountain Road] toward Zaca Creek Golf Course would be holding up traffic for people wanting to get to work,” he said.

However, Hornick answered that with “I understand, but we actually want to slow it down.”

Ultimately, Hess was directed to move forward on the restriping.

The final business item, Item 9, had to do parking issues on McMurray Road by Valley Vineyard Circle. Silva recused himself because he lives on Valley Vineyard Circle, and left the meeting, with Councilmember Elysia Lewis being handed the gavel.

Hess said there have been multiple issues with parking in the area, partly because there has been a lot of construction there, with heavy vehicles and equipment required on site. There have also been complaints of vehicles parking too close to the intersection, blocking sight lines for those trying to turn onto McMurray.

Hess introduced a map proposing red curbs (banning any parking) all around the field formed by Valley Vineyard Circle and McMurray Road. The reaction to that was negative, with three residents (one by email) criticizing the idea.

During public comment, one resident said “This is extremely aggressive [the amount of red curbs]; it just seems like a lot to me.”

Lewis said she was not in favor of the amount of red curbs. “It causes more problems than it solves,” she added.

Sanchez agreed with Lewis, and went even further, saying there should be no red curbs at all. “I don’t understand limiting parking on any public street,” he said.

The discussion ended with City Manager Scott Wolfe saying they will come back with another proposal for the area at a future meeting.

The City Council will next meet on Thursday, April 25, at 6 p.m.