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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 11th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 27 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 27

Santa Maria puts future downtown discount stores on hold

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

If it wasn’t for the elongated Fallas Discount Store debate that took place this earlier summer, the Santa Maria City Council might not be talking about bargain basement stores in the downtown area.

But the Fallas saga did happen and, to the chagrin of some city residents, the business was allowed to put down roots, at least conditional ones, in the old Mervyn’s building across the street from the mall.

On Sept. 3, the City Council unanimously passed an interim ordinance—which was initially brought to the table during the Fallas hearings as a “moratorium”—prohibiting any bargain basement retailers within the Downtown Specific Plan area.

As Larry Appel, Santa Maria’s director of community development, pointed out to the Sun, the ordinance doesn’t affect any businesses currently operating downtown. But it does affect discount stores that might want to settle downtown in the future.

“We’re not looking at denying anybody a chance to have a business in town, we’re just looking to regulate,” Appel said.

By regulation, he means the city needs to come up with an amendment to the Downtown Specific Plan or change some of the city’s zoning measures with regard to bargain basement stores. The interim ordinance will give city development staffers time to look things over, reach out to cities that have done something similar, and come up with a reasonable solution to the discount quagmire.

The ordinance defines bargain basement stores as any large retail space that prices 65 percent or more of its merchandise at $15 or less. A recent study completed by community development staff members shows 35 bargain-basement retailers operate outside of the Downtown Specific Area and six operate within it.

Appel said the solution will probably take the form of a conditional-use permit process for discount retailers in the Downtown Specific Plan area. The initial ordinance is for 45 days, but Appel said the city staff would need more time than that to do a study and formulate a solution.

He said the discussion will come back to the council before the 45 days are up, and staffers will most likely ask for an extension to the interim ordinance.