AV Press: Supervisors OK a Primo drive-thru
By: Julie Drake
The Primo restaurant proposed for a plot of vacant land in Acton near the Antelope Valley Freeway will be able to move forward with a drive-thru window after Los Angeles County supervisors upheld an appeal by the restaurant's co-owner of an April 6 decision by the county's Regional Planning Commission to forbid a drive-thru window for the project.
Primo is part of a commercial development on an approximate two-acre parcel of land on the south side of Sierra Highway west of Crown Valley Road between Jack in the Box and Acton Auto Parts. The proposed development also includes a 6,000-square-foot retail building for the Country Club Feed & Supply store and an accessory storage building.
Critics fear the restaurant's drive-thru window will draw traffic off the Antelope Valley Freeway. They also expressed concern about the safety of children from nearby High Desert School. Acton Town Council members have said they are not opposed to the restaurant itself but oppose the drive-thru window because of traffic concerns.
"This applicant had a support letter from the previous Town Council and its partner, the (Country Club Feed & Supply), is a local favorite store," Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said at Tuesday's hearing in Los Angeles.
Antonovich distinguished between the Primo project and a proposed Taco Bell development the board denied a drive-thru window at a hearing last November.
"This project is going to upgrade (Country Club Feed & Supply), along with it's locally owned, owned by these people in Acton," he said.
Antonovich motioned to approve the appeal on the project's conditional-use permit and adopt a negative declaration with the finding that the project will not have a significant effect on the environment. The supervisor also directed the departments of Regional Planning and Public Works to clarify the trip generation rate for the Rural Commercial Zone and include those results in the final approval.
"We appreciate Supervisor Antonovich and the board approving our project because it was unique. We look forward to expanding and continuing to serve the Acton community," Country Club Feed & Supply owners Doug and Joanna Gaudi said in a statement after the hearing.
The Gaudis own the land where the development will go and have said they need the Primo restaurant included in the project in order to fulfill their long-desired goal to move their business to a new, larger location where they can expand their inventory.
"It's been our dream to build our own feed store; we've always rented property," Joanna Gaudi told the board, adding they purchased the property 12 years ago.
About 45 people testified before the board in Los Angeles, including about 14 people via remote video hookup from the Lancaster Library. Most were in favor of allowing the drive-thru window.
Most of those who spoke were in favor of a drive-thru window for the Primo restaurant in part because it would add more variety to the eatery options in the community.
Primo co-owner Paul Zerounian told supervisors he has spent more than $120,000 on the project after he received an initial approval from members of a previous Acton Town Council.
Longtime Acton resident Scott Rowe, speaking from the remote connection at the Lancaster Library, said he supported the inclusion of a drive-thru window for the Primo restaurant.
"I think it will be an asset to the community because it does serve (the community) that it's in, and I think it will fill a gap in what is available for eating opportunities in our community," Rowe said.
Rick Norris, a former Palmdale city councilman, said the Crown Valley Road exit is a commercial corner designed for commuters to exit to get fuel and food.
"The Association supports Acton's desire, implemented through its community standards district document and the Antelope Valley Area Plan, for low-intensity, community-serving businesses and the preservation of rural character its residents currently enjoy," said Susan Zahnter, director of the Association of Rural Town Councils.
Zahnter added a precedent was set when supervisors denied Taco Bell a drive-thru window, and she urged the board to deny Primo's appeal.
Acton resident Ron Bird supported the drive-thru window for Primo.
"This drive-thru is different than when you rejected the Taco Bell project," Bird said. "Taco Bell's national advertising campaign would draw people off the freeway. Primo is a small, family owned business, so they'll have much less of a draw."
Acton resident Tracie Tenerelli expressed concern about freeway-serving businesses.
"We already have enough, and I feel if you let Primo Burger in, it just allows for more of these types of businesses," Tenerelli said.
Acton resident Jean Laird expressed concern about safety issues for equestrians.
"We've already got hamburgers, we don't need a third one and it would be disruptive to our quality of life," Laird said.
Antelope Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce director Victor Vega said he has lived in the Antelope Valley since 1987, has seen Primo's involvement in the community and spoke in favor of the project.
Town Council member Kelly Teno expressed concern about the ripple effect allowing a drive-thru window for Primo could create.
"I'm concerned that if you approve this drive-thru, we will get so many more fast-food and large franchise-type businesses in Acton," Teno said.
Town Council member Pam Wolter said they had about 1,000 petitions from people who opposed the drive-thru.
"We are strongly opposed to the Primo burger drive-thru," Wolter said. "Acton already has three drive-thrus for fast-food restaurants, which pull many cars off the freeway every day. The residents of Acton have clearly spoken by the 1,000 signed signatures and petitions we have submitted to the Board of Supervisors."
Project supporters submitted 473 letters and cards, representing 506 people, with the majority submitted by residents who live within the Acton Community Standards District.
Acton resident Gary Lubben said he supported the project with a drive-thru window in part because of the ease of use for customers with limited mobility.
Town Council member Jacki Ayer said the Town Council urged the board to support the project without a drive-thru window.
"The traffic analysis done for this project shows that with the drive-thru the traffic load at Acton's intersections will increase to the point where traffic signal levels are exceeded," Ayer said.
Town Council member Katherin Tucker said they are not opposed to the project but want to make sure it is approved in a way that will not alter the community's rural lifestyle.
Acton resident Joyce Betts said the traffic study done for the project is flawed because it was completed in August when school was out of session.
"When parents are dropping their kids off there are cars backed up on to the 14 Freeway waiting to get off to get on to Antelope Woods," Betts said.
"The people of Acton wanted a Primo with a drive-thru and Supervisor Antonovich and the rest of the board listened. We are so excited to be able to bring a Primo to Acton," Zerounian said in a statement after the hearing.
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