Despite many speakers appearing before the Gridley City Council Tuesday night, the AM/PM Convenience Market was approved by a 3-0 vote. Councilmen Chris Williams and Gary Davidson were not in attendance.
An appeal filed by the five local gas station owners was denied but not before hearing from four of the owners and many community members.
Colleen Bowden has lived in Gridley 21 years, and worked in the Gridley Post Office in the 1990's, stated, "Someone said this was an emotional issue. It is a very emotional issue. One of our fine Police Officers pumped gas when younger (referring to a remark made earlier in the meeting during a Police promotion). Sure we are a small town. If we give up the small town, what do we have?
"We do not need to be a pit stop. We have something that sets us apart. We don't want to be just another stop. If we give that away what do we have left? Why don't we focus on making Gridley something more to stop for? AM/PM attracts loitering young people. We are a small town. People who work here locally cover the wages that stay here. We don't want to lose the spirit of a small town. We are losing our own fabric. Once it's gone, it's gone forever," Bowden stated.
Judy Johnson Pruitt spoke about her hometown to the Council stating, "I have nothing to do with the appeal. Gridley is my hometown. I work in Marysville and come to Gridley to get gas in an area where I feel safe at night by myself. I go through Yuba City, Marysville, Olivehurst and see AM/PM's with a lot of people hanging around outside not there to spend money. The City Council should consider how this will affect existing businesses.I cannot see where you think there will be enough business to take away from existing businesses. It's going to take kids from where they buy now such as the Ice Burgie and the other places with food. You need to consider the family owned businesses here."
Fastrip owner Donald Maciel stated his concern was the procedure the Planning Department took, the steps taken prior to November 13, 2017. "Is there procedure or steps to generate meetings? I was not informed and neither were the residents. Were there policies and steps not taken and if not, why?" Maciel asked Council members.
Realtor Jack Bequette stated he owned a gas station on Highway 99 from 1952 to 1960 and in that time there were 11 gas stations on Highway 99 all competing for business.
"We all made a living. Our country was founded on competition. I see no reason why we shouldn't have more competition," he stated.
JT Kullar, developer for the property stated he did not disagree with any of the comments in the appeal of the matter "except maybe traffic."
"We don't need a study to know traffic has grown considerably. My family has been here since 1977. I donate back to the community and have had a business relationship with Dean (Owner of Mac's Market, Dean McKelvey who was in the audience) since he opened and our relationship will not change. The pros of the project far outweigh any negatives," Kullar stated.
Noting the concerns of many of the speakers for the students crossing the highway Kullar stated, " This will reduce the amount of kids crossing Highway 99 before, during lunch and after school."
Nearby neighbor Chad Morgan stated he had lots of concerns primarily how the project got through so quickly with neighboring homeowners not receiving any notice.
"I was flabbergasted this went through Planning without people affected knowing. I am very concerned about the crime because AM/PM is a magnet for transients. I deliver to one every day and I see it every day. I love competition. I am a former business owner. Competition is good but when we flood the area with gas stations on a prime location is it a gas station we need? It will open up my property to people walking thru, bring foot traffic and for the three other houses. I was not shown a plan. Just heard a gas station coming in next door. Sure, it goes in quick but it will take a long time to get rid of it," he told Council members.
BP representative for AM/PM Ken Wold was in the audience and took his turn at the podium to state, "I get the concerns. I get it. I grew up in a small town in Iowa. Competition is good. Somethings it brings other businesses up, forced to add more. We make money in the store, not in gas. This is a corporate site not a franchise site. This is almost state-of-the-art, down lit, clean with fresh food changed out every three days, not your normal filling station.
"I believe this is good for the City. I get the concerns. We are not out to put properties out of business.
Jaz Kaur, owner of Fastrack and the Gridley Inn and RV Park stated she has been in business in Gridley 16 years and did not agree with what Wold said stating competition won't affect others.
"We have seen it in Gridley. When we had two dollar stores one went out of business downtown when Dollar General came to town. It does affect when you bring bigger businesses. Businesses close because of competition. We have five other stations who support our local schools. We do not need another gas station, especially BP/Arco," Kaur told Council members.
Planning Commissioner Zach Torres who was the lone no vote at the December 11, 2017 Gridley Planning Commission meeting for the project stated he was in complete agreement that he would like to see Gridley grow but pointed out that Gridley had already seen Tom's Sierra, the Pit Stop and Joe's Super Stop go out with Joe's Super Stop creating an ugly spot for Highway 99.
"Competition is good. I get it. As we try to grow Gridley this could be detrimental. I know what JT is trying to do. I thank him for the effort. It was a hard decision. Do we need something that will cause more empty buildings?"
Councilman Ray Borges told the audience he did not want to hurt anybody's business. "I'm a small contractor. They have the legal right to do this. This is not what our country is about."
Vice Mayor Bruce Johnson agreed state he was just 18-years-old when he started his first business after graduating from Gridley High School which he still owns. He told the story of a then Planning Commissioner who told him satellite dishes were ugly and that the good people of Gridley would not stand for it. The Vice Mayor also stated he had a City Council member come up to him and pretty much curse him out stating, "We don't need this kind of stuff. The feeling I had was horrible. But it didn't stop me. I understand the concerns but I feel everyone has the right."