Novato opens site off Highway 37 to businesses
Updated: Jun 2, 2018
POSTED: 01/25/18, 5:04 PM PST | UPDATED: ON 01/27/2018
Author: Stephanie Weldy
Publication: Marin Independent Journal
A rendering of buildings for light commercial use at 5400 Hanna Ranch Road in Novato as part of the Novato Gateway project. Provided by Thompson Development
The Novato City Council this week gave the green light to a land use designation change that will allow warehouses, offices and more at a 4.91-acre site where highways 37 and 101 meet.
Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved amending the city’s general plan and zoning and signed off on an environmental report that will permit light industrial office use at 5400 Hanna Ranch Road — a vacant lot where construction is expected to begin by spring.
“I want to first commend our staff and the applicant for being responsive to the market and recognizing that things do change and we need to adapt as a city to that,” said Mayor Josh Fryday.
The project, dubbed Novato Gateway, received needed approvals in 2008, allowing Thompson Development to construct three buildings totaling 61,900 square feet and 212 parking spaces. One building will house Thompson Builders Inc., the construction arm of Thompson Development, and the other two buildings will accommodate as many as 11 tenants each. The project was initially approved to allow business and professional office use, which includes banks, office space, medical clinics and more.
Casey Clement with Thompson Development said there is not a need for commercial office space in Marin with vacancy rates hovering around 20 percent over the past year, “which is historically high.”
“When you look more specifically at the vacancy rates in Novato, I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that our vacancy rates for office are about twice the county average, at about 37.5 percent,” she said.
Under the new land use designation, permitted industries include small-scale manufacturing, warehouses, wholesale and distribution, upholstering shops, indoor equipment rentals and florists. Industries that would be allowed with an approved use permit include fleet vehicle parking, minor auto repair and maintenance, restaurants, including some with alcohol sales, and auto sales.
Councilwoman Pat Eklund expressed concern about allowing fleet vehicle parking, which she said could take up much of the site’s parking and create excessive traffic flow in the area.
“I remain concerned about the fleet vehicle use,” she said. “I’ll be watching that very carefully because I don’t think in my view it’s a site where we want a lot of buses or vans being stored or parked or coming back and forth.”
Hans Grunt, a senior planner with the city, said because fleet vehicle parking requires a use permit, the city would look at the tenant demand at the site before considering allowing such operations.
“Even further, we could look at positioning fleet vehicles due to aesthetics or other reasons for preservation of circulation purposes for the balance of the development and aesthetics,” he said.
All council members expressed delight that the project was at last moving forward. Construction was expected to be completed by spring 2019.
“I think waiting a decade is a long time for something to happen,” said Councilwoman Denise Athas. “I’m thrilled something’s going to happen there. One of the things I’m most excited about is the fact that it’s changing to light industrial (use), which I feel we’re pretty depleted of in Novato. I think it’s really important zoning for us to have — I think it’s going to help some businesses come here.”
Councilman Eric Lucan told the applicant: “I think we’ve got something that’s going to work here. I applaud you for your patience in getting it to this point. We look forward to seeing some movement there.”
Clement said Thompson Development staff was pleased the land use designation change received unanimous council support.
“The council members have demonstrated that they’re willing to take action to adapt to changing market conditions — that’s exactly what’s needed to foster a healthy economy in the long term,” she said.
To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/general-news/20180125/novato-opens-site-off-highway-37-to-businesses