A lengthy discussion about noise, privacy and aesthetics preceded Tuesday’s Placerville Planning Commission’s conditional approval of the Tractor Supply Co.’s move into the Mountain Democrat building at 1360 Broadway.
Neighbors from Martin Lane, which backs up against Hangtown Creek across from the Mountain Democrat parking lot, expressed concern that public address system use, nighttime deliveries and engine start-ups would increase noise in their neighborhood. Lights from the parking lot and customers perusing the proposed outdoor display area creating a possible detriment to neighbor privacy were additional concerns.
Tractor Supply Co. is one of the largest retail farm and ranch store chains in the United States. They carry agricultural and orchard supply, apparel, fencing, lawn and garden supplies, water storage tanks and pumps as well as apparel. The company, with the nearest stores being in Galt and Dixon, sells tractors along with power take-off attachments for post hole digging, hay raking, bailing and other traditional farm uses.
“The biggest tractor is less than 20 horsepower — like the lawn and garden tractors you see at Home Depot,” said Greg Ward, who represents TSC in real estate acquisition.”How often they would be started up (for customers) is dependent on the season — four to five times a day during the summer, maybe a dozen times on the weekend.” No large tractors are proposed for the site.
The site on Broadway was originally built with retail in mind as it was a Safeway store for many years. After Safeway relocated, the site was occupied by Blue Shield of California until it was purchased in 1991 by the Mountain Democrat from Wheaton College. Retail sales in the existing building and loading dock are a permitted use in the zoning district and not subject to review by the Planning Commission, however outdoor display is a conditionally permitted use.
Three separate outdoor displays are proposed for the parking lot area: a storefront area, a fenced area encompassing two-fiths of the parking lot and an unfenced area along the westerly border for trailer and equipment marketing. The proposed fencing along Broadway is a decorative black wrought iron with brick veneer posts. Street frontage landscaping with street trees is proposed as well.
Barbara Revaz, a 57-year resident of Martin Lane, said there had always been a problem with noise from the loading dock and special events in the parking lot. “Also, the lighting shines in our backyards and bedroom windows and the see-through fence is unnerving.”
Sound and privacy mitigation through the use of sound-proof fencing, landscaping or slats inserted into the current chain link fence along the creek was discussed. Community Development and Engineering Director Mike Webb said, “The noise is somewhat of an unknown quantity. Equipment startup and deliveries will be the biggest factors and we can restrict those activities to certain hours.”
“We have agreed to use a lower tech method of communication between the indoor and outdoor areas instead of a public address system — maybe pagers or something similar,” said Charlie Downs, of ANOVA Nexus Architects, which designed the TSC site plan.
“Foliage isn’t the answer for sound proofing,” said Commissioner Les Russell. “A solid wood fence north of the existing fence will attenuate the noise. This isn’t mainly a tourist town — it’s also a working town and we need this small part of business for the people who work here.”
The Planning Commission approved the conditional use permit for the outdoor display area with a 5-0 vote. A condition of a landscape plan and agreement as well as a sound mitigation plan was added and will come back to the Planning Commission. Deliveries were limited to Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
The next city Planning Commission meeting is Aug. 21
Downs said the building owner had no problem meeting any of the conditions imposed by the permit. Under the conditions of the permit TSC can begin making interior changes as soon as they are ready and submit the landscape and sound mitigation plans for approval prior to occupancy.
The Mountain Democrat will move its offices to the vacant Blockbuster Video building on Placerville Drive.
“This is a great piece of news for Placerville because the new retail represents some (economic) recovery,” said Downs. “The site is currently underutilized and is ideal for TSC. It’s a win-win for Placerville — better utilization of the site and a better utilization of the site the Mountain Democrat is moving into.”
“At 18,600 square feet, our building on Broadway is too big for our needs. It’s much underutilized. Our original plan when we purchased it in 1991 was to install a printing press and newsprint storage. Those plans changed, with our printing done at our sister newspaper at Fairfield,” said Mountain Democrat Publisher Richard Esposito.
“Leasing our building to Tractor Supply Co. works for everyone. Placerville will benefit with increased tax revenue and jobs and the Mountain Democrat’s purchase of the old Blockbuster video building at 2889 Ray Lawyer Drive allows us to operate much more efficiently. The 7,200-square-foot the Blockbuster building will work nicely once the property is fully renovated,” Esposito said.
“Of course all this is contingent on the city’s approval of the plans and finalizing our lease with Tractor Supply Co.,” Esposito said.