Kmart area mixed use development discussed by Planning Commission

June 27, 2001
Santa Paula News

The Planning Commission had plenty to say after a conceptual review of a project directly west of Kmart that would be targeted for mixed use.

Ilan Bender of Bender Farms, owner of the almost five-acre parcel facing Faulkner Road, presented his tentative plans for a multi-tenant commercial and industrial complex which he said would be built to be attractive to passers-by on Highway 126.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe Planning Commission had plenty to say after a conceptual review of a project directly west of Kmart that would be targeted for mixed use.Ilan Bender of Bender Farms, owner of the almost five-acre parcel facing Faulkner Road, presented his tentative plans for a multi-tenant commercial and industrial complex which he said would be built to be attractive to passers-by on Highway 126.The front portion could be used for retail with the back - including outside storage areas - slated for industrial and masked from railroad view, a Planning Commission concern.Bender said he would spend up to $1.5 million on the complex. Revenues would flow to the city based on property tax and the planned distribution of building space would provide 9,000 square feet for retail, 19,000 square feet slated for offices and 22,500 for outside storage. The building would be constructed to be flexible, to hold “one or 20 tenants.”City staff recommended an engineer to discuss barranca flooding issues which would be handled with block walls and hand loaded gates similar to those in Fillmore, he added. Bender will approach the neighbors about the plan to handle the water backup problem, “a can of worms that nobody wants to tackle. . .”The project would be similar to others he has developed in Van Nuys, where tenants include body shops, carpenters, marble importers-wholesalers, furniture manufacturers and machine shops. Bender said he wouldn’t “turn away” retail tenants and would welcome a restaurant. “I don’t honestly believe a lot of retail would come in there but I’d like to leave the door open. . .”Commission Chairman Gary Nasalroad said a proposal for a storage facility at the same location had been rejected by the commission four years ago. “. . .one reason was because the city is looking for more tax revenue and possibly employment,” that would not come from a storage facility. Of equal concern is the location, considered a city gateway. “I get concerned when I hear uses like auto body shops. . .I would really hate to see this turned into an industrial park.”
The complex, now the site of flower growing, and “Replacing flowers with asphalt literally doesn’t sound like a popular idea to me,” noted Commissioner Jeff Novak, who asked why the property can’t be used for a shopping center or homes.Planning Director Tom Bartlett said the zoning is set in the General Plan, and Bender noted he would do “anything I can that would be profitable.”Homes wouldn’t be wanted next to the freeway, said Nasalroad.“I don’t know if the community wants homes that are more affordably priced or industrial surrounded by asphalt,” Novak said.“I don’t think we can suggest an alternate zoning here,” Nasalroad noted, but Novak said homes or a big box retailer would have more “cache. . .it’s a very high visibility project.”Bender repeated the design would be attractive, but Novak said the corridor would consist of the “Kmart, portapottie storage yard, a prison and then this. . .”Commissioner Dave Johnson suggested that any project undertaken by Bender incorporate a design theme that fits the city, and costs tagged onto rentals to cover maintenance.Commissioner Bill Irion urged a conditional use permit to prevent deterioration and noted that Bender would probably face strong opposition to any plans to convert use of the land. “. . .there may be people who object to this, a large chunk of ag land not being in ag anymore. . .that’s a sentiment in the community and the county.”



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