Confusion delays vote by planners

Project isn't for Apex lab, but a medical supply store

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comOctober 25, 2012 

A mistake by city staff and a plethora of questions caused the Planning Commission to delay a medical facility project until next month.

Community Development Director Paula Fitzgerald prepared a staff report for the commission requesting a zoning change that would allow Apex Medical Group to convert a vacant home into a laboratory at 310 W. I St. Although the home is across the street from Apex's main facility, it is not the company's project nor is it going to be a laboratory.

Debbie Perry, an Apex employee, owns the property and wants to convert it into a medical equipment store.

Commissioner Deborah Lewis, who cited the Brown Act, questioned whether the board would be able to hear the item Wednesday. Fitzgerald said because the mistake did not change the project's specifications, it could be heard.

Fitzgerald's response was followed by myriad questions by commissioners and the public about the details of the project.

Commissioner Arkady Faktorovich said, "In this kind of situations, when you have a track that is residential zoned, we're setting up precedent of excluding one property... and we're putting the city in a very awkward position where the city has no choice but to approve it or (face) litigation."

Faktorovich also wanted to know what the facility's plan would be for garbage pickup.

Fitzgerald said many areas along that portion of I Street, which has homes, retail and medical facilities, are zoned differently.

Dick Gerbi, who owns property near the project was concerned with pedestrian safety and parking.

"I see a situation where there's a patient from Apex, they're going to be crossing the street. They are not going to go down to Illinois (Avenue) and use the crosswalk," Gerbi said. "The other problem is the parking lot is going to be hard to get into. They have the same situation they have at Quest (Diagnostics), nobody ever uses the parking space there because it's hard to get in and out of."

The medical equipment store would be located on a 6,800-square-foot lot. Several Commissioners asked Perry for a floor plan. She could not provide one because it has not been decided whether to remodel the home or tear down a large portion of it to create more space for parking.

Perry said she wants to open the store because Los Banos needs it.

"I've worked at Apex for 22 years. The patients, they're prescribed wheelchairs, walkers. I can hear them, 'My daughter only comes to town once a month from San Jose. I have to wait for her to come take me to pick that up.' It's heartbreaking."

Perry was also asked about delivery trucks. She said the store will carry small items like safety bars, but will have larger items delivered directly to a client's home.

Ed Erwin, director of real estate services for Sutter Health, said he was disappointed that the project was not a laboratory. But, he said, an equipment facility will also work for Memorial Hospital Los Banos, which he was representing. Erwin asked the commission to require that only a medical-related facility be permitted to set up shop in that location.

Commissioners ultimately continued the item until their Nov. 14 meeting, requesting a detailed site plan and more information on deliveries and garbage collection.

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