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Sunday, December 20, 2009

CA Tow Yard Owner Fights To Stay Put

Here's the Appeal-Democrat story:

A tow yard in Linda employs nearly a dozen people. Its owner, Dick Sanchez, has contributed to community causes for decades. Yuba County officials said they want his business to stay in Yuba County.

Just not where it's at now.

The tow yard on Lindhurst Avenue is in limbo between full operations and being a nonpermitted business after the county Board of Supervisors turned down an appeal last week by Sanchez to keep Sanchez Truck Repair and Towing open despite a Planning Commission decision against it.

Kevin Mallen, director of Yuba County's Community Development and Services Agency, said his staff will begin meeting in the next few weeks to decide on options for where else in the county Sanchez might move his operation, which is similar to a tow yard he's operated for several years in Yuba City.

"There definitely needs to be an exit strategy for those businesses at their current location," Mallen said of the Linda site.

At issue is zoning in the area of Lindhurst Avenue where Sanchez's business is located. Earlier this year, planning staff asked planning commissioners to decide whether a tow yard facility fit under a "commercial" designation for the area, suggesting it might not.

Sanchez said he'd gotten no such feedback from the county when he first opened the Lindhurst site a few years ago.

"I've met all the conditions they wanted for a conditional-use permit, and I think I should have one," Sanchez said at the appeal hearing.

But after several meetings in the fall, the commission decided his business didn't qualify, and denied a conditional-use permit.

Supervisors considered the appeal at length before ultimately denying it on a 4-1 vote. Supervisor Andy Vasquez, who represents Linda and who'd spoke on behalf of Sanchez's business during planning commission meetings, cast the only vote against denial.

Sanchez, who said Friday he didn't want to comment, told supervisors he believed he was being forced out in favor of more attractive retail businesses of the kind the county hopes to attract along Lindhurst Avenue.

His suspicion was somewhat supported by Ian Wallace, a county resident who told supervisors he hopes to develop a small retail center on property near the tow yard.

"What's the betterment to Lindhurst Avenue from tow yards?" Wallace said at the meeting, adding he'd once turned down an offer to establish a tow yard on his property because of the zoning concern. "There's a planning concept known as 'the highest and best use,' and this is going backwards."

Mallen said Sanchez's fears have some merit, as the recently completed General Plan update identified Lindhurst and nearby North Beale Road as prime places for retail and some housing.

Businesses like Sanchez's, he said, might be more ideally situated near the Yuba County Airport or along Highway 65 on Rancho Road.

"Tow facilities are outdoor uses, and we have to figure out the best place for those," Mallen said, adding the county may need more zoning for them than what's already designated.

The county will meet with Sanchez early next year, Mallen said, to come up with a new plan for where his business can go.

Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Ben van der Meer at 749-4709 or bvandermeer@ appealdemocrat.com. For more Yuba County news, see Ben's blog "Yuba County Insider" at appealdemocrat.com.

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