Thursday, September 29, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 31

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 21st, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 30

Buellton Planning Commission rejects designs for proposed ARCO station

By Caleb Wiseblood

The architect behind a proposed gas station in Buellton and one city official recently took turns throwing fuel on the fire at a heated public hearing. 

During the Buellton Planning Commission’s Sept. 15 meeting, Alex Cuevas of AGC Design Concept, anticipated the project’s denial and blamed city staff for not providing enough direction for his proposal to meet city standards.

Originally proposed in 2018 and revised and resubmitted in both 2020 and 2021, the latest concept design for a proposed ARCO gas station in Buellton met unanimous disapproval from the Buellton Planning Commission on Sept. 15.

But Planning Commission Chair Patty Hammel argued that Cuevas’ revisions to his proposal—first submitted in 2018 and resubmitted in 2020 and 2021—have consistently ignored directives from both city staff and the Planning Commission.

“Why can’t you just be straightforward? We’re an architectural firm, I’m not too proud to say, just tell me what you want and we can put it together,” Cuevas said, after hearing a presentation from city staff that outlined elements of the proposal that require further revisions.

Hammel pointed out that fewer than half of the concerns raised by Buellton’s design review team in the staff report were addressed by the applicant in the latest proposal. According to the staff report, Cuevas’ latest submission is missing details on several of the proposed gas station’s design elements, including the gas canopy, roof eaves, window trims, awnings, and other features.

“I was here four and half years ago with the April 2018 application. A lot of these concerns from the architect review, for the third time, and our initial comments and concerns are the same thing. They haven’t been addressed,” Hammel said. “I have to say I’m very disappointed in this project. … At this point, I’m really not inclined to send this back with the million conditions to do an approval.”

After Cuevas commented on his lengthy interactions with City Planner Irma Tucker over the years and described her latest presentation on the project as “unfair,” Hamel said, “I’m not going to allow you to speak negatively about our staff; we have a very experienced and very professional staff.”

“Same here, same here. I’ve been doing this for years,” Cuevas said. “I have never gone back and forth so much.”

Most of the concerns raised by city staff on the proposed project, which would include an ARCO gas station and an AM/PM convenience store and quick serve restaurant, are due to several elements being incompatible with the art deco style standards required by the Avenue of Flags Specific Plan. 

“We’ve had a lot of resistance from ARCO, as far as the architecture, because as a corporate institution, … they want their standard,” Cuevas said. “They don’t want anything else.”

“We do apply the same standard to everyone and we’ll continue to do so,” Hammel said. “I know that there’s this stuff with ARCO and the corporate logo and the corporate branding, but we can’t grant exceptions, or exemptions, because of that.”

Planning Commissioner Art Mercado said he sympathizes with Cuevas’ situation of negotiating with “a corporate entity,” and believes the project could be a “gold mine,” thanks to its location near the 101 freeway offramp, but he agreed with city staff’s concerns.

“This is a project that needs to be rethought and brought back to us at a later date with more consistency of what we’re asking for,” Mercado said, shortly before the Planning Commission unanimously agreed to deny the design proposal. “We’re asking for a certain standard, and I just think that those standards have to be met.”

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