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Amador County Mulls Business Park’s Airport Appeal

By Stan Oklobdzija

The Amador County Board of Supervisors declined to override a determination of non-conformance issued by the Airport Land Use Commission in regards to the proposed Martell Business Park Development plans at last Tuesday´s meeting.

Rather than overriding the determination, the board opted to have an ad-hoc committee reconvene with developers and help formulate a plan that fits within the current safety zone restrictions.

At the heart of the matter were proposals to add retail space to the business park development. Paul O´Sullivan, representing developer Caitlin Properties, indicated the proposed 22,000 square feet of retail space would not affect current density restriction statues. As it stands, density in the contested five-acre Safety Area 2, or the Approach-Departure Zone, is not to exceed 25 persons per acre within a 24 hour period, or 50 persons at one time. Developers, however, claim that Sacramento Executive Airport has a layout similar to the proposal and has had no problems thus far.

In a Feb. 1 report, county staff expressed doubts as to the similarities of the two projects.

“When consulting the land use compatibility chart it appears the developers have used the category of ‘retail trade´ as their point of reference justifying their request for compatibility,” read the staff report. It continued to express doubt that the types of “shopping districts” proposed are compatible with use at either Sacramento Executive Airport or in Amador County´s Westover Field Airport. Furthermore, the staff report indicates that the Caitlin Properties´ calculations of density “didn´t take into account any persons who may enter the Safety Area from other areas of the shopping center…”

“We´re not asking for an increase in density,” said O´Sullivan, noting that his company´s calculations fall within Caltrans guidelines. “We´ve reduced the amount of retail space from 50,000 square feet to 22,000 square feet with 6,000 feet of offices. Obviously these regulations are a bit bureaucratic if they don´t distinguish between people in an office and people in a normal retail environment,” he added.

“We´re restricted from a dense retail establishment, like a restaurant, but we could have something like a doctor´s office.”

Greg Shepard, who owns property nearby, stated he was not there to support or oppose the project, stated that he felt the density proposals were not realistic.

“I suggest we get some numbers so that we can find out what happens in the real world,” he said. “I can tell you that on our acre and a half of property, we´ve had as many as 300 people at a time. I´d ask the board to make Caitlin go back and get a little more information,” he added.

District 4 Supervisor Louis Boitano also raised doubts as to the project´s feasibility.

“It might not even be realistic for office use,” he said.

Dave Sheppard, the airport´s manager, said that a business open longer than 12 hours a day is subject to different density restrictions. “If the business is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., they´re allowed 37 people maximum at any one time,” he said.

Dave Richards, a local resident, also raised the issue of the parking lot being used for outdoor sales.

“If you had a car dealer, like the ones that go down to Wal-Mart…you could have over a hundred people roaming around,” he said.

O´Sullivan said the company would accept an exclusion on outdoor sales.

In light of these concerns, the committee recommended further review of the project´s density levels.

“If you wanted us to meet with the ad-hoc committee again,” said O´Sullivan, “we could come up with some more definitive drawings and get some more input…we´d be happy to sit and talk with you guys. If we´re allowed to build an office with that density, what is the real difference between an office of that density and a retail of that density?” he said. “Whether they´re in there shopping or whether they´re seeing the doctor is somewhat splitting hairs.”

The board approved a motion for a continuance until its meeting two weeks from now, where it will re-open the public hearing into the matter. The Ledger Dispatch