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December 29, 2007

Whole Foods clashes with neighborhood

1 The City Council’s rejection in March of a proposal to build a Whole Foods Market in the Rancho District put an end to a months-long struggle that pitted a vocal group of residents in a quaint neighborhood against the interests of a commercial developer.

The project, which was proposed for the corner of Main Street and Alameda Avenue, triggered a vociferous public dialogue between store supporters and residents who worried that a 60,000-square-foot market would bring unwanted congestion to the neighborhood and compromise pedestrian and equestrian safety.

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In an attempt to assuage opponents, the developer, Tom Davies, downsized the project two times, first cutting it to 50,000 square feet, then offering a 40,000-square-foot alternative as a last-minute effort to eclipse the council’s final no-vote.

But the council halted the project in a 4-1 vote, also denying Davies’ request that the vote be recorded “without prejudice,” which would have enabled the developer to largely avoid the time-consuming application process when proposing another project for the site.

In the aftermath, Rancho residents fought to restore some neighborhood protections that were lost with the passage of a 1998 zone text amendment, which left the allowable size and scope of new developments up to some interpretation.

The council reinstated some of those protections on Oct. 31, voting to prohibit large grocery stores from being developed in the Rancho District.

Citywide smoking ban approved by council

2 Anti-smoking advocates breathed a sigh of relief in late March, when the council approved limitations on smoking in public by a tight 3-2 margin. The ordinance prohibits smoking in several areas in Burbank, including parts of downtown, public outdoor restaurant dining areas and the Chandler Bikeway.

The law underwent some tinkering before it was finalized, including a reduction of the buffer zone between smokers and pedestrian pathways from 20 feet to 5 feet, in order to provide restaurant owners with more flexibility. The council also reduced the allowable square footage that a business can designate as a smoking area from 50% to 40% of the restaurant.

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