Planning and Zoning annual review relaxes restrictions on Conditional Use Permit

ATASCADERO — Atascadero City Council held their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 25 at 5 p.m. for closed session and 6 p.m. for open session. 

The meeting started with approval of the consent calendar, which passed 5-0, followed by an update from the City Manager, Rachelle Rickard. 

The City of Atascadero is starting its youth sports and camp programs, just in time for summer and after a year hiatus due to COVID restrictions. Basketball registration is open for Kindergarten to 8th grade, as well as baseball, softball, and T-ball. 

Getting through this together, Atascadero

The Memorial Day ceremony will be held at the Faces of Freedom Veteran’s Memorial on Monday, May 31 at noon, with no BBQ event to follow.

The city-wide yard sale is set for Jun. 5 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the deadline for signing up is May 29. 

Lastly, the SB438 bill passed the Senate floor on a unanimous vote and is headed to assembly. This bill would allow Atascadero to be repaid roughly 1.4 million dollars from the redevelopment agency if it passes, and Rickard wanted to be sure to extend thanks to Senator Laird and his team for all their work on this. 

To read the bill in its entirety, visit leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB438. 

Public comment heard from Josh Cross, CEO of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, who wanted to highlight two events that are coming soon.

The Shop Local Gift Card Bonus Program is in place in Atascadero. The Chamber is purchasing five $20 gift cards from participating businesses, and shoppers can collect receipts for a cumulative $100 from participating businesses and then send them in to receive gift cards to shop downtown. This is an exciting and successful program to help downtown businesses continue to thrive during the COVID setbacks.

Atascadero is selling Wine Passports in lieu of the traditional Wine Festival. The passports can be purchased on the Chamber’s website, and the early bird special is $65 per passport. The passport gives you comped tastings at 15 wineries, five breweries, and a cider house, as well as waived corkage and downtown restaurants. The event begins with a kick-off celebration on Jun. 26 at the Atascadero Lake Park, with two wineries, two breweries, and a cider pouring, as well as live music. Passports will also be sold at the event.

Next, the Council moved into the first public hearing regarding Prop 218, Majority Protest Process Relative to Proposed Increase to Wastewater (Sewer) Rates. Staff recommendation was to increase the sewer rate baseline from $28.57 to $34 for Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDU). The Equivalent Dwelling Unit is how the City measures property to ensure that a small condo is charged accordingly in comparison with a single-family unit or commercial structure.

The existing EDU is lower than most other cities, many of whom are also increasing their pricing at this time. 

Public comment heard from Charles Kania, President, and Co-Moderator of Community Church of Atascadero, about how the increase would negatively affect their organizations as well as others due to the current lack of funding because of the inability to host many of their normal events and fundraisers. 

Deborah McKrell also spoke on the matter for clarification on if this affects homes on septic, or only homes on sewer, to which Mayor Heather Moreno explained it would only affect those on sewer. 

Moreno also spoke to Kania, asking him to inquire further with the City as the rates he quoted paying seemed to be higher than they should be for a Church organization. City Clerk Lara Christensen reported that only four protests were submitted, and 2,700 were needed for a majority protest. Councilmember Charles Bourbeau moved for approval of the resolution items A and C, and then the motion passed 5-0.

Public hearing item 2 was in regards to Title 9 Chapter 17 (Cannabis Activities & Regulations) Municipal Code Amendments to Add Non-Storefront Cannabis Delivery Services and Security Provisions. Currently, the City only allows delivery from businesses outside the City limits, but the hearing would be to set regulations for any business that would reside within the City with no storefront but only a warehouse for delivery purposes.

The issue had been heard by the Planning Commission, but they were unable to get the needed vote of 4-1, so they had no formal action. The Planning Commission did have a few conditions suggested, one of which was removing the disqualifier of “misdemeanor” from the hiring criteria. City Council discussed this and determined that it would be more beneficial to leave that in, and anyone who had a misdemeanor and wanted to appeal could do so on a case-by-case basis. 

The concerns around the issue were primarily security, as well as ensuring that these non-storefront businesses don’t take up real estate in certain areas where the City is working toward creating traffic and not simply warehouses.

After a thorough discussion on the topic, Council Member Susan Funk made a motion to adopt the resolution with amendments

  • Restore the phrase for “misdemeanor”
  • Add a phrase the loading and unloading from the trucks must be done indoors
  • Eliminate certain categories from locations where testing or non-storefront facilities could be located
  • Approve correction of typos as indicated by staff

The motion passed 5-0.

The last public hearing item was Title 9 Planning and Zoning Text Amendments – Annual Code Update. Phil Dunsmore presented a list of amendments to the current code to clarify items or allow residents to build fencing, retaining walls or detached accessory structures without requiring a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) each time. 

Some of these amendments involved removing the stipulation on a home of which yard is the front and side and allowing the developer to pick the orientation and follow the guidelines from there. This is especially essential in Atascadero, where there are many corner lots or winding roads which make the orientation ambiguous. One clause was in regards to limiting what services mortuaries could perform in certain city areas. Since the two mortuaries in Atascadero had not been notified prior to the meeting, it was deemed that this item be postponed until next review, at which time those businesses could receive proper notice.

The conversation around detached accessory structures, which would be amended to allow structures without obtaining a CUP, would allow owners to build a structure up to 100 percent the size of the original home (up to 3,000 feet) if it was behind the main building, compatible with the neighborhood, conforming with zoning regulations, not result in substantial grading or tree removal, nor blocking sunlight.

Council concern was that these regulations might be too loose and could result in issues for neighbors if someone opted to build such a large structure without being reviewed. 

Mayor Moreno ultimately made the motion to approve with Council’s amendments which were changing the maximum size to 2,000 feet, with a ten-foot setback from the property line including any overhang, and 40 feet from the nearest neighboring inhabitable structure, and removal of the mortuary clause until those businesses had been notified. 

The motion passed 5-0.

Council announcements were brief as the Council still had to return to closed session, with Mayor Moreno stating that City Manager Rickard and herself had met with the owners of the Galaxy Theater and complex and that the foreclosure was stalled until early June and that she would be sending a letter to the lender, pursuing any available options.

There was no report from closed session.

The next meeting of the Atascadero City Council will be held on Jun. 8 at 6 p.m. for open session, and the meeting agenda will be posted on the City’s website when it becomes available.