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Planning Commission Meeting Minutes

March 12, 2003


The meeting was called to order by Chairman Price at 4:00 p.m.


Chairman Price; Commissioners Crane, Francis, Griffin, LeQuire, Savage, and Stopper

STAFF PRESENT: Chief Planner Rosen, Senior Planner Mullis, Associate Planner Eastman, Senior Engineer Wallin, and Recording Secretary Baker


Commissioner Savage requested that in the first paragraph on page 26, "positive" be changed to "negative", the word "but" be removed and that "and inclusion of commercial zone into residential neighborhood" be added to the last sentence.

MOTION by Commissioner Crane seconded and carried by a 6-0 vote, with Commissioner Griffin ABSTAINING that the Minutes of the February 12, 2003 meeting be APPROVED as amended.




Staff report dated March 12, 2003 was presented pertaining to a request to modify an existing CUP and site plan to allow the replacement of St. Philip Benizi Church, which was destroyed by an arson fire in 2000. Associate Planner Eastman stated that the proposal constructs the project in two phases. The final project will increase the sanctuary and parish hall by 460 seats and 2,080 sq. ft., respectively; remove existing modular buildings, priory, and temporary tents; and add 128 parking spaces.

Associate Planner Eastman presented a zoning map, photos, and site plans, showing different phases of construction, floor plans and building elevations. He explained that the site is zoned R-1-6, designated by the general plan for religious uses, with the area surrounding the property zoned for single family residential. He corrected the staff report, which indicated a general plan designation of residential uses, instead of religious uses.

Staff recommended limiting concurrent use of activities to mitigate the parking demand. Staff also recommended approval of the project, subject to the 23 conditions outlined in the staff report.

Commissioner Crane commended staff on a clear and concise report. He asked about the proposal to use temporary structures, clarification on the parking in Phase 1, and whether the church had agreed to the proposed landscaping in Exhibit A.

Assistant Planner Eastman stated that due to the lack of funding available, Phase 2 will not be realized for several years. church needs to provide modular buildings for current church operations and functions. He also clarified that the City required a 3-to-1 ratio for parking spaces and the ultimate plan would meet the code requirements. He stated that the church is aware of the landscaping requirement, and felt that they should speak toward any concerns they might have.

Commissioner Stopper asked if there had been any complaints from the surrounding neighborhood. Assistant Planner Eastman stated that there were no existing complaints, per Code Enforcement, and staff had not received any letters or phone calls. Commissioner Stopper also asked about specialized signalization, due to the proximity to the airport. Assistant Planner Eastman said that during review of construction drawings, the staff would review the project for compliance with FAA's Part 77 requirements.

Commissioner Savage asked for a clarification of proposed seating. Assistant Planner Eastman told the Commission that the church was proposing 1,000 seats for the sanctuary in Phase 1. The previous sanctuary was parked for roughly 745 seats. Staff had not counted the number of seats in the tent, however the applicant has identified that the tent seats were 750. Seating in the tent is comparable with the previous sanctuary.

Commissioner Francis reiterated that the church will be going from current seating of 750 to 1200 seats after Phase 2 is completed. Assistant Planner Eastman concurred with those figures. Commissioner Francis was also concerned with a large amount of traffic leaving all at once after a major event. Assistant Planner Eastman consulted with the traffic engineer who wanted to see the elimination of the current driveways near the intersection of Gilbert and Valencia. Recommending conditions require that the church gate the center drive to divert all the traffic away from the intersection, and the church had no objections. He showed which driveways are currently being used and which driveways are proposed to be removed.

Public hearing opened.

Father Ignatius Kissel, Pastor at St. Philip Benizi Church, thanked the Planning Commission for their graciousness to allow them to have the tent. The ATF determined the church fire was arson, but there have been no leads and the case is closed.

Father Kissel urged the Commissioners to quickly approve the plans as proposed. He said that parishioners have left because of the conditions in the tent, i.e. difficult weather conditions, the noise of the planes passing overhead, loud sirens of emergency vehicles, radios and various sounds in the neighborhood. He stated that they aren't able to complete both phases currently, due to a lack of sufficient funding. They are taking out a major loan from the Catholic Bishop of Orange to build the sanctuary. The modulars provide office space and meeting rooms that replaced the rooms that were lost in the fire.

Commissioner Crane asked if Father Kissel agreed with the conditions in the staff report, if they owned the modular buildings or if they needed to purchase them, and what the build-out time for Phase 1 would be. Father Kissel stated that they are in agreement with the conditions in the staff report in regard to Phase 1 timing. He must first find a new residence for the priests currently living there. Modular units cannot be moved and the church cannot be built until the priory is demolished. Father Kissel stated that they own one modular unit and the Diocese of Orange has given them two other buildings (one double-wide and the other is triple wide) that are in storage, awaiting approval from the Commission to bring on site. He deferred the build-out question to his architect.

Dennis Hyndman, of Hyndman and Hyndman Architects, said that even though they are increasing the seat count, the 3-to-1 parking ratio remains the same. He stated that they haven't experienced parking problems on the site. He also told the Commission that they are currently working on the construction documents and they expect to apply for building permits in the spring and begin construction in the late summer early fall, which will take approximately one year. The residents will be moved off-site during construction. He thanked staff and said that they have been very helpful.

Public hearing closed.

Commissioner Crane was disappointed with modular trailers and buildings and that the residence will be removed. He is concerned with the possibility of having modular units for up to 20 years. He asked for comments from other Commissioners regarding the modular units.

Commissioner Griffin understood Commissioner Crane's concerns, but recognized that it was a monetary issue. He knows members of this parish, is excited that it's being rebuilt, and hopes that Phase 2 can be built as quickly as possible so that they can remove the modular units and eventually have a permanent facility.

Commissioner Francis said that he was in full support of the project. He toured the site while the ATF was investigating. He felt that the Commission and community must do everything to see that this moves forward; even if that includes modular buildings.

Commissioner LeQuire was also excited about redevelopment of the site. He felt it was a sad loss and he shared Commissioner Crane's concerns. He doesn't want to see modular buildings for 15 to 20 years. He asked if the city could waive the bond equal to 50 percent of the cost of landscaping, in order to provide the church with working capital.

Chief Planner Rosen stated that the wording is from the code. However, if there is a financial issue, Staff will work with the applicant to ensure that the landscaping would be maintained for one year.

Public hearing reopened to discuss the timing of the removal of the temporary structures.

Mr. Hyndman clarified that they are moving forward immediately on Phase 1. He commented that the Commission could see that it was purely for financial reasons that they were not able to implement both phases concurrently. Ideally, they would like to wait until there is sufficient funding for both phases, however, they would have to extend the duration of the use of the large tent. The parish community and the Diocese of Orange both want the church built as soon as possible. They all feel it's best to build a new sanctuary first, rejuvenate the parish and as membership returns and is increased, the fund-raising capabilities are more viable.

Chief Planner Rosen stated that the term "temporary structures" is used based on the anticipation of a future removal. However, the foundations, tie downs, handicap ramps and bathrooms are all required because the buildings are more than temporary; they should be referred to as modular. Up to four years is a usual time frame for a timely temporary use.

Commissioner Crane asked if they were opposed to relocating the modular unit to another part of the site so it's not right next to the street. He did not want to see a modular unit next to the street for an extended period of time.

Mr. Hyndman responded that the modular unit would be placed on the foundation currently used for the temporary tent. Chief Planner Rosen added that the City doesn't have the landscape plans yet. The City will require landscaping and screening of the modular units from the street with landscaping.

Public hearing closed.

Commissioner Savage agreed with the other Commissioners as to what a tragedy this was. It would be nice to have both phases completed. He realizes that some people live in double wide trailers for up to 30 years. He believes that the site will be more attractive, even with the modulars, because of the additional landscaping and the new sanctuary.

Commissioner Stopper stated that he was a big supporter of this project. The need for this church is established, he feels the membership will increase and he is pleased that the church is rebuilding and not moving.

Chairman Price viewed this as a terrific project and he understood the Commissioners' concerns over the modular units. He appreciated what the parish has gone through and how difficult it was to raise money. He felt it was a vast improvement for the community and surrounding neighbors. A beautiful structure will be replacing a tent. He asked for suggestions for alternative conditions with respect to the modular units.

Commissioner Crane was primarily concerned with the modular unit closest to Gilbert Street. He suggested that they relocate it or establish a condition requiring heavy landscaping so that it is screened from public view.

Commissioner LeQuire supported the project without further conditions. He suggested that the Commission calendar a one year update on the status of construction and removal of the modular units.

Chief Planner Rosen stated that staff would update the Commission on this project in one year.

The title of Resolution No. PC-03-09 MODIFYING an existing Conditional Use Permit and Site Plan to allow the replacement of a church destroyed in an arson fire on property located at 235 South Pine Drive, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner LeQuire, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.



    Chief Planner Rosen gave an update on the urgency moratorium that staff presented on the Pico/Carhart area. He explained that there was a February 26 community meeting. The moratorium was granted and all future plans for that area are frozen for 45 days.


    There were no public comments.


    The next meeting of the Fullerton Planning Commission will be April 9, 2003, at 4:00 p.m. The March 26, 2003, meeting has been canceled.


There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:20 p.m.

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