Grocery store debate continues in Arroyo Grande

January 25, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

After much controversy, developer Nick Tompkins is again on the Arroyo Grande City Council agenda in another attempt to get approval for a proposed grocery store at East Grand Avenue and South Courtland Street.

Council members are scheduled to revisit the issue on Tuesday, Jan. 25, starting at 7 p.m. in the Arroyo Grande City Hall.

During the second half of 2010, Tompkins attempted to get approval to put in a 50,881-square-foot Food 4 Less grocery store. The City Council rebuked his attempt after numerous residents spoke out against the project.

Tompkins’ current proposal includes a restaurant, two commercial buildings and a 35,786-square-foot grocery store.

More than 5,000 locals signed a petition asking the council to reject the project.

Carol Florence, a representative for Tompkins, said a survey conducted by San Luis Obispo-based Opinion Studies shows that there is a need for an additional grocery store in the area.

Callers polled 200 Arroyo Grande residents and 200 residents from Grover Beach, Oceano and Nipomo. Their survey concluded that 65 percent of the public support a Food 4 Less in Arroyo Grande.

“The 5,000 plus signatures is more indicative of what the community wants than the 200 Arroyo Grande called in Tompkins’ survey,” said Spencer Market owner Beatrice Spencer.

The Tompkins’ survey also determined that the Cookie Crock Warehouse, a grocery store, which sits a few blocks east of the proposed store on Grand Avenue, stands to lose the most business to a new discount grocery.

Tompkins also owns the shopping center that includes the Cookie Crock Warehouse. About a year and a half ago, Tompkins offered to buy out the Cookie Crock Warehouse owners’ 30 year lease, so that he could redevelop the property.

Both Tompkins’ current project and the Cookie Crock Warehouse shopping center sit in the city’s redevelopment zone. State redevelopment funds provide financial assistance to cities and developers who redeveloped zone properties dubbed blighted.

Gov. Jerry Brown has announced plans to cancel state redevelopment funding in his efforts to help balance the state budget.

Several opponents of the project contend that  Tompkins is attempting to put a low-cost grocery in an area that is already saturated with grocery stores because he is hoping to force the Arroyo Grande Cookie Crock Warehouse out of business.

“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Nick and the city have had many discussions about redoing our shopping center without us,” said Cookie Crock owner Del Clegg. “Here is a chase after a few tax dollars, and the city gives up the integrity of good planning.”

“The redevelopment money is not a major motivator,” said Steve Adams, Arroyo Grande city manager.

Adams said, the city currently gets $1.6 million per year from the state for their redevelopment agency. The city spends the funds on developer’ costs and pays the city’s redevelopment agency’s staff salaries.

If Brown is successful in disbanding redevelopment agencies, the city would still receive about $600,000 per year money in previously designated funding, Adams said.

Both Foster and the project’s planner, Florence, said that plans to redevelop the Cookie Crock Market and the plans for the Courtyard project are unrelated.

“The whole back and forth between Tompkins wanting to put Cookie Crock out of business is not anything that would have anything to do with putting this project through,” said Ryan Foster, Arroyo Grande associated planner.

Opponents of the project claim the developer already has a tenant in mind, an arm of Food 4 Less, the chain’s Hispanic format, Rancho San Miguel.

“We have no tenants, zero,” Florence said. “It would be lovely to have an anchor. The building is such that it could include two or three tenants.”


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SLOChuck

Why is no one hitting on the point that part of AG’s image is its small town charm? And a slightly affluent charm? A Food For Less just doesn’t fit there. The town does NOT need another super store in the area. What it needs is more mom and pop charm.


justme

Nick, give it a rest.


Cindy

There is a fine balance between free enterprise and blight. In a strong economy, vacant spaces are often filled with new merchants who add variety but in this economy blight is a very real concern.


Unfortunately developers spread their goodwill around in the form of $$ and lots of hand shaking, they usually get what they want and to hell with the small town character and the mom & pop shops. We have a Food for Less in A-Town but I still shop across the street at Spencers. The discounts afford the same cost savings. Support your local merchants and demand variety from the new developers.


Typoqueen

I will never trust another survey. I had a call last Oct. from one of the major pollsters. They asked me to push ‘1’ on my phone if I thought that Obama’s health care should be repealed now (Oct.). Then they said that if I wanted it repealed after Jan. then push ‘2’. Those were my options, they didn’t give me an option of not repealing the health care bill. Opinion polls mean nothing, they’re too easy to fix.


Too many markets=bad city planning. Another market in that area will hurt that area by closing down all the stores in the Spencers strip mall, if Spencers closes then they all close. It will also cause terrible traffic congestion.


Truth

Who would you believe, 400 people randomly called at home unsuspectingly aware of the details or 5,000 people who went “out-of-their-way” to actively sign a petition to PROTEST this new grocery store?


When you take a moment to look at the traffic flow you will immediately realize that someone will be seriously injured or killed as a result of the poor and dangerous traffic flow of delivery trucks.


Let’s be SMART and RESPONSIBLE about future grow.


Truth

Who are you going to believe 400 random calls who may be caught by an unsuspecting phone call not prepared with all the details or 5,000 people who take aggressive action themselves to go “out-of-their-way” to sign a petition “PROTESTING” another grocery store coming in. All you have to do is look at the traffic study to know that SOMEONE WILL BE INJURED OR KILLED in a traffic accident if this is allowed to move forward as is.


OnTheOtherHand

I agree about the relative importance of surveys vs. petitions. The only reason I haven’t signed one of the petitions at Spencers is that I am a resident of Grover Beach not AG.


That said, the potential for increased traffic from a Food-4-Less or other major chain store there would be an major annoyance but not significantly more dangerous. It would also be sligtly offset by a decrease in traffic near Cookie Crock as they would likely be affected the most by the competition.


I do at least a third of my grocery shopping at Spencers and another third at Cookie Crock. I rarely go to Vons (even though it is closer) because not only are most items I buy more expensive there but I prefer to shop at locally owned stores if they carry what I want at reasonable prices.


WiseGuy

The developer who wants to build another grocery store would have done better to simply pursue the “free enterprise” argument. But when he claims that the area “needs” another grocery store, he loses all credibility in my book.


Not only are there multiple major grocery stores within a mile of the proposed new grocery store, there is also a weekly Farmer’s Market across the street, other farm stands within 2 miles, a Trader Joe’s within 2 miles, TWO Rite-Aid pharmacies within a mile, and so fourth.


There is no way in heck that the area “needs” another grocery store, and anyone who responded indicating they believe a new grocery store is necessary must not have fully understood what the issue was, or they had some personal relationship with the developer.


It’s appalling to hear the kind of crap that some of these developers spout, obviously believing that most citizens are too stupid to figure out the truth.


Developers and other business people who pull this kind of condescending, insulting crap make all the honest and community-minded developers and business people look bad.


Would it be too much for the developer to tell the TRUTH?


kellzeppelin

I am opposed to the project and plan on attending the meeting tonight to show support for local grocery stores. This article finally brings to light some of the issues that Cookie Crock and Spencers have been dealing with. I find the survey hard to believe and think the petition is certainly a more valid source of public opinion. The public has obviously shown their stance on the issue and the City Council should take those concerns into consideration. The Arroyo Grande city website states the following about the jobs of the City Council, “The City Council consists of five members elected at-large, on a non-partisan basis. Residents elect the Mayor and four Council Members, making each accountable to the entire citizenry.” I hope that at tonight’s meeting, council members will speak for the people and not the wallets of NKT.


Side_Show_Bob

I’d wager that the 200 call survey dialed numbers that were located somewhere in the middle of the Tijuana Triangle between Paso Robles St , Hwy 1, & 24th St. Oceano.


I don’t care how you brand it, we do not need another GROCERY STORE at that location and to say there isn’t some connection between this and the Crock Warehouse properties is preposterous.