A project that will bring a grocery store to the east end of Orcutt has earned the approval of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission, clearing the way for the Minson Co. to pull permits and begin construction.

The commission approved the project on a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Dan Blough recusing himself from the discussion because he has a financial interest in a nearby project.

Plans for the development on the south side of East Clark Avenue between Stillwell Road and Highway 101 show a market with attached retail space, a restaurant with a drive-through and a convenience store and gas station with 12 fueling stations and an automated car wash.

A total of 42,921 square feet of commercial development is planned on the western 5.95 acres of a parcel designated Key Site 2 in the Orcutt Community Plan and adjacent to a smaller project already under construction at the corner of East Clark and Stillwell.

It will be served by a new intersection with a four-way traffic signal and turning lanes that will also serve a larger proposed commercial development on the north side of Clark Avenue designated Key Site 1, as well as a secondary access through the project on Stillwell Road.

Garing Morse, representing the Mojo Partners, noted this is the fourth project proposed for the site and will actually start preliminary construction of the new intersection.

“Most importantly, it will be nice to have a grocery store at this end of Clark,” he said. “A number of people are having to drive farther down to Bradley at this point in time for grocery stores.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to supply that type of services to the residents.”

He also said it will improve traffic circulation for those coming onto Clark Avenue from Highway 101.

“Obviously, it’s going to generate tax revenue, we know that, and I think that is an item that is easily said and can sometimes be overlooked,” Morse said.

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Only two people spoke during public comment — both concerned with the path of the access road that will lead from a new intersection with a four-way traffic signal that will also serve another commercial project proposed for the north side of Clark Avenue.

David Hassett, representing Sunny Hills Estates Mobile Home Park and Town and Country Mobile Estates, both located south of the proposed project, said the residents appreciated the developer’s efforts to provide them with pedestrian access to the project.

But he wanted to be sure the current access on Sunny Hills Lane will be maintained so that residents will be able to turn left onto Clark.

Planning and Development Department staff explained the residents will be able to use the access road through the development site to the four-way signal, where they can turn left or right.

Ed Simonian, representing the eastern portion of Key Site 1, asked that the access road be allowed to continue across that portion of the property to the southeast corner, where it could turn south parallel to the freeway to provide access to a parcel designated Key Site 3 in the Orcutt Community Plan and slated for a residential development.

No clear decision was reached on Simonian’s request.

The developers had requested several variances, including modifying the rear setback from 25 feet to 10 feet and allowing two additional signs on the market, with a total sign area of 110 square feet rather than 100 square feet.

The developers also requested an increase in the hours when parking lot cleaning would be allowed.

While commissioners were concerned about noise, the developers’ representatives said the reduction in the rear setback would actually reduce noise for the mobile home park residents by allowing delivery trucks to unload on the sides of the building, rather than in the rear.

The 10-foot portion between the back of the market and the 8-foot block wall along the mobile home parks would be landscaped with trees to provide additional screening.

Commissioners agreed with the requested variances but balked at extending the parking lot cleaning hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. to midnight. Instead, the commission allowed the hours to be extended to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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County Reporter/Associate Editor

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.