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Calistoga Towing

A new Shell gas station and car wash have been proposed for the site of Calistoga Towing on Foothill Boulevard.

Citing conflicts with the city’s General Plan, the Planning Commission on Wednesday evening directed staff to prepare a resolution denying the proposed gas station, car wash, convenience store and restaurant at the intersection of Petrified Forest Road and Foothill Boulevard.

The decision was based on inconsistencies with numerous policies related to design and formula businesses that could not be readily addressed through revisions to the project plans.

The commission unanimously decided that the project is a chain business and does not meet requirements in keeping with the town’s unique character.

The only way the project might be viable is if the applicant completely started over, said Vice Chair Tim Wilkes.

“It looks like every other gas station. Across the country gas stations have become ubiquitous and pretty much all look the same — businesses get a site and move templates around. A completely unique project could be beneficial to Calistoga. I appreciate this project but it really would require starting with a blank sheet of paper,” he said.

The project was proposed for the site of Calistoga Towing, at the busy western intersection that handles traffic bound for Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Lake County.

The project would have included a 1,184-square-foot self-serve car wash, a 3,222-square-foot convenience store and a 2,800-square-foot restaurant with a plaza/patio and trellis.

The applicant, AU Energy of Fremont, owns and operates 118 gas station locations in Northern California, including Napa. Thirty of those include “Loop” branded convenience stores.

The applicant was represented at the meeting by Kpish Goyal, part of the family that owns the development company. He stated that design elements like stone veneer would blend with the agrarian nature of the town. He also said the Loop convenience stores are unlike other convenience stores in that they offer more healthy choices and open coolers. The gas station would have operated 24 hours a day, with the option of a 5-foot-tall, 400-pound, egg-shaped security robot.

“We’re committed to fitting into the community to make it work,” he said.

The packed community room was standing room only as more than a dozen residents, many of whom live near the intersection, spoke against the project citing traffic concerns, problems with transients, and noise.

Jennifer Bennett, local resident and owner of Lovina restaurant on Lincoln Avenue, had garnered a petition against the project with 130 signatures.

“I, personally, don’t want to live in a neighborhood that needs a security robot,” she said.

Several residents suggested put a moratorium on all building projects until the full impact of larger construction projects on the town’s infrastructure is known.

The lone voice supporting the project was St. Helena resident William Hick, who said there was “a lot of misinformation” out there and spoke in favor of getting rid of the current towing business on the site which is “an eyesore.”

“The corner is embarrassing. It’s time to make a change. It’s a great project, and I’d like to see more clean cars in Calistoga,” he said.

In other Planning Commission business, Commissioner Scott Cooper expressed concerns about the ongoing fires at Clover Flat Landfill. Vice Chair Wilkes noted that the Mayor had addressed the issue at the previous night’s City Council meeting, and that the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency is considering punitive actions.

Also, Wilkes would like staff to prepare a post-development evaluation of the 1514 Washington St. apartments to compare the built project with the approved plans in terms of the actual numbers of tenants and cars generated by the project.

You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at csweeney@weeklycalistogan.com or 942-4035.

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor