Following last week’s board presentation, the Buellton Planning Commission is continuing its discussion with an applicant who has submitted conceptual plans for an In-N-Out location to be built in the city.
Last week, the board reviewed the conceptual plans for the franchise during a regular meeting. The plans, which were submitted by Andrew Gharibian, propose a new drive-thru In-N-Out location be built at 515 McMurray Road — the site of the old Parks Plaza Theater. According to the conceptual plans, the theater would be demolished, and in its place, a 3,800 square foot building and outdoor area would be built.
These plans are only preliminary at this point, as Mr. Gharibian has not submitted an official application to the Planning Commission. Last week’s meeting was only meant to get feedback from both the commission and members of the public.
During the public comment period of the meeting, it became clear that the public is largely divided over the new establishment. Some are in favor of the fast food chain making its way to Buellton, while others are concerned about the traffic it could bring to the already crowded intersection off of Highway 246.
“We’ve had mixed comments,” Cara Meche, an assistant planner with the Buellton Planning Commission told the News-Press. “On our Facebook page there’s been lots of comments, and we had about 13 or so public comments come in in writing. The issues that we’re hearing from the public are mostly related to traffic, noise and odor.”
Ms. Meche said the commission is still in discussion with Mr. Gharibian regarding next steps, and at this point, she said it’s uncertain whether a formal application will come to fruition. She said the commission will likely meet with Mr. Gharibian within the next week to discuss comments from the public.
If an application is submitted, Ms. Meche said Planning Commission staff will have 30 days to review the project and consider what needs to be done in order to align the project with City standards. Looking over the project, staff could determine that a traffic study, noise study or environmental study could be needed in order to complete the application, Ms. Meche said.
If the applicant files a formal application, it’s not certain how long it will take for the project to be approved, Ms. Meche added.
“We might be looking at a minimum of six months, and then we’ve seen other projects take over a year to get a complete application,” Ms. Meche said.
Kathy Vreeland, the executive director of the Buellton Chamber of Commerce, told the News-Press on Wednesday that she can empathize with the “mixed feelings” many members of the public have about the establishment being built. On one hand, she said she would be sad to see the Parks Plaza Theater go, but on the other hand, the new franchise has a chance to bring economic prosperity to the region.
“It does breed jobs,” Ms. Vreeland said. “It’ll be a great economic driver for the city as well so all of that benefits the city financially and benefits the kids looking for jobs.”
“I see social media and hear different comments from people, and some are very excited for it and others are not so sure,” she added.
Because the property is privately owned, the City does not get much of a say in what is built on the plot, Ms. Vreeland said. The property is also zoned commercial, meaning an In-N-Out could fit into the scope of what is allowed on the land, she added.