On April 16, the Mill Valley City Council will be asked by a Subway franchisee and the owner of 29 Miller Ave. to reverse in February to reject a .
But tonight at City Hall, the commission continues its ongoing quest to create a new set of rules for dealing with such proposals in the future, along with a host of changes to the city’s regulations for new businesses in town.
The commission first took up the issue in June 2011 on the heels of recommendations from the now-defunct Business Advisory Board "to improve city processes and promote business development consistent with Mill Valley’s character." Whatever changes the commission agrees to will then go to the City Council for adoption.
The proposals (attached at right) are wide-ranging and span across all of the city's commercial areas. They include the creation of a new downtown-specific commercial district, as well as replacing the existing Professional and Administrative area, which includes parts of East Blithedale Ave., Camino Alto and Miller Ave., with a “Limited Commercial” area that would emphasize office uses but also reflects the fact that many other types of businesses, from hair salons to retail, have popped up in those areas in recent years.
But the proposed changes for dealing with chain or formula businesses, which the city defines as those having seven or more locations and standardization of design, services and products, have garnered the most attention to date.
First, all such businesses would need to get a conditional use permit (CUP) regardless of the size of the space. Current regulations require such businesses only to get a CUP if they are proposing a change of use – going from retail to restaurant, for instance – or if they plan to occupy a space larger then 1,500 square feet. (Despite target a space smaller than that, Subway needs a CUP because the previous tenant, , occupied that space for more than 40 years and the city’s regulations have changed vastly since then.)
The current changes call for all chains to be “in harmony” with specific provisions of the city’s General Plan; not detract from “the existing balance and diversity of businesses” and not create an “over-concentration of similar types of businesses” or detract from the existing land use mix and high urban design standards.
The proposed changes have drawn a great deal of interest from the Parkwood Association of Neighbors, which is adjacent to the southern edge of downtown, including the shopping center that contains Subway. The association has lobbied the city to require all “high-impact” business such as restaurants to get a CUP in downtown spaces that are adjacent to residential areas. They’ve also asked that any business hoping to serve alcohol go through the CUP process, “due to the unique impacts this type of use engenders.”
The 411: The Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 26 Corte Madera Ave. Click here to watch the meeting online.