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Denial of Alcohol Permit Overthrown by Planning Commission

The Murrieta Planning Commission narrowly rules in favor of an appeal filed by the owners of Arco Ampm at 39460 Murrieta Hot Springs Road after the mini-mart was previously denied an alcohol permit by the city's Planning Department.

A Murrieta gas station that had its request to sell beer and wine denied by the city Planning Department won its appeal to the Murrieta Planning Commission.

After a more than two-hour discussion and public hearing Wednesday, commissioners ruled narrowly with a 3-2 vote in favor of the appeal filed by SAS Properties for its ARCO ampm at 39460 Murrieta Hot Springs Road.

Chairman Gregory Goodman and Commissioner Anthony Casadonte casted dissenting votes, while Vice Chair Jeff Kirshberg and Commissioners Ruth Anne Taylor-Berger and Raymond Seda voted in favor of the appellant.

The store, located at the southwest corner of Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita roads, has traditionally not sold alcohol since it first opened in 2006. It was before being converted to an ampm under new ownership.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, two people spoke in favor of the store selling alcohol and six spoke in opposition. Many of those who spoke against it were in attendance at a when Community Development Director Mary Lanier denied the permit.

“I ask the Commission to support the community development director's decision and not support this permit,” said Teresa Webb, a resident of Vanderbilt Avenue, less than 1,000 feet from the mini-mart.

Webb said she has signed petitions against alcohol sales in neighboring centers since purchasing her home in 2003. Webb was one of 125 to sign a petition against this latest attempt.

Joel Wingo spoke on behalf of Calvary Chapel Bible College, which is across the street from the mini-mart. He said more than 30,000 guests and students come through the college and conference center each year, and that most frequented the store.

“Alcohol is not something they desire,” Wingo said. “We do have several students who are minors. Also our campus is not secured so if people wish to consume alcohol on our campus they might be able to do that. We would like to maintain a peaceful atmosphere.”

Steve Rawlings of Murrieta-based The Rawlings Company, who was working as a consultant for SAS properties, turned in a petition with more than 500 signatures in support of the license.

City Planner Cynthia Kinser pointed out that Lanier was not supplied that petition when she made her Dec. 7 decision.

Because the location of the mini-mart is included in a census tract that takes in parts of Winchester Road in Temecula, Assistant City Planner Aaron Rintamaki said there needed to be a public necessity to grant the license, as the tract was already at its maximum for alcohol licenses.

“The census tract area takes in Trader Joe’s, Costco, all along that Winchester Road corridor there,” Rawlings said. “And that is somewhat significant to point out…In Murrieta’s case there are a lot of licenses being included from Temecula. I strongly do believe that this is business that will act responsibly.”

Rawlings also reminded commissioners there was a Fresh and Easy selling alcohol in the location already, and that another ampm had just although it is located near homes and Vista Murrieta High School.

Of the two commissioners who voted to deny the appeal, Goodman said he’d rather “error on the side of prevention” of an uptick in crime where there was more alcohol readily available.

According to Murrieta police Lt. Julie Hoxmeier, there 31 calls for service at the location within the last year—most of them made by patrol officers.

“The majority of contacts were thefts, where the gas station was the victim. We did not get any calls in the last year for disorderly conduct or loitering,” Hoxmeier told commissioners.

“Within reason, certainly alcohol is related to crime, you can’t deny that. Certainly if you have alcohol at a location you are going to have a higher preponderance for police calls,” Hoxmeier said.

But the commissioners who voted to accept the appeal deemed it a public necessity.

“I do think there is a matter of convenience for this site,” Taylor-Berger said.

Kirshberg said he was satisfied the store would meet the 42 conditions of approval under the city’s new alcoholic beverage code.

“The objectives and policies in these conditions of approval were set forth. I really just come back to first one—is it public convenience and necessity,” Kirshberg said.

The Planning Commission will formally enact a resolution approving the alcohol permit at its next meeting Feb. 22.

The victory means the store’s management can now take proof of the Planning Commission’s ruling when it applies for its license from the State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Kinser said.

JJ Mclure February 09, 2012 at 02:32 PM
payoff
Dourk February 09, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Scumbag Murrieta: Chase out MMJ dispensaries, expand alcohol sales.
LBV Collins February 09, 2012 at 05:09 PM
No kidding! What’s up with that? Alcoholics can get their fix, but cancer patients can’t get their doctor-recommended medicine?
Chris February 09, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Who cares? These people act like gas stations are bars, and you will have scores of drunks loitering around drinking on the property. People who want alcohol will buy it and then take it home or wherever their final destination to drink it. Period. The vast majority of people don't buy a twelve-pack and crack them open in the gas station parking lot. Come on. And If Bible college students want it, they will drive to anywhere that sells it and buy it there. That gas station won't change anything. The only noticeable thing police will see that they didn't before is beer runs. The neighborhood certainly isn't going down in flames over this.
Chris February 09, 2012 at 05:31 PM
@Dourk -- if marijuana was *really* legal (i.e. federally) and sold in the same manner as alcohol, there wouldn't be an issue with it. Clearly it isn't the same, and so it's more complicated than you make it out to be.
LBV Collins February 09, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I completely agree, Chris. It’s ludicrous to believe that preventing an AM/PM from selling bottled beer and wine will somehow improve their neighborhood. According to government statistics, 50-percent of adults drink alcohol on a regular basis. That means that half the people in those neighborhoods are drinking. So what in the world is allowing (or disallowing) a local convenience store to sell beer and wine going to accomplish? Will those neighbors who imbibe suddenly pack their bags, sell their homes and leave? Nope. It just makes buying beer and wine a little more inconvenient for them. And the Calvary Chapel Bible College argument is just silly. Their visitors might be offended by walking into a store that sells beer and wine? Seriously? Well, then don’t go shopping at any Murrieta grocery stores. (I can’t think of a single one that DOESN’T sell beer and wine—and hard liquor, too.) And do they really think that that their campus will suddenly be overwhelmed with party animals who can’t resist the urge to pop a brewski on a bible college campus—simply because the AM/PM across the street started selling beer and wine? I’m not certain, but I imagine most people would rather go someplace else—like home—instead of risk being ticketed for having an open container in public, or arrested for being drunk in public.
Chris February 09, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Aha! Absolutely right LBV...
Paul February 10, 2012 at 08:48 AM
No! That issue goes back to the typical law to not sell alcohol within so many feet of a school or church or park. Murrieta modified that law recently. It is true that there are already over 100 places to buy beer already in Murrieta. Nearly all grocery stores and drug stores hace over 100 feet of floor aisle space stacked with alcohol from the floor to five or six feet high. and also sell 40% alcohol, whiskey, vodca, etc. Sam's Club has 300 feet of alcohol. But almost the entire county and city officials are paranoid about allowing outlets for medical marijuana. That is what is so strange. Alcohol is much more addictive and dangerous, and harmful to individuals, their families and the community as a whole than marijuana.
JJ Mclure February 10, 2012 at 03:34 PM
illegals buy lots of it....no license keeps them away
Chris February 10, 2012 at 03:53 PM
@Paul -- Counties/cities pushing out dispensaries has nothing to do with any comparison of the dangers of alcohol versus marijuana. Alcohol is legally consumed in a recreational fashion in all 50 states. In contrast, the federal government classifies marijuana is a schedule 1 controlled substance and has varying medicinal allowances in 16 states. If marijuana was legally the same as alcohol, you wouldn't see any issues with counties/cities, and it would be sold in stores in the same manner as alcohol. The fact is California's medicinal marijuana law is a joke that illegally ignores federal law, and any company/municipality that allows its sales takes a big legal risk. I do not dispute that marijuana has good medicinal qualities that can be applied to those with a legitimate need. But the way it is done here is ridiculous and is a basically thinly veiled way to allow those that want to get high a means to do so 'legally'. Yes there are those that need it, but the application of the law is a disaster. You don't see 'Vicodin shops' set up with doctors staffed on site to write prescriptions for all comers. And the fact is dispensaries do attract violent crime because of the reality that marijuana is still very much a part of the illicit drug market. I am 100% for legalization, but I not the way California is doing it, and I don't care for these joke dispensaries being in my neighborhood. It needs to be legalized *federally* and treated the same as alcohol.
Paul February 21, 2012 at 10:59 AM
I do agree with part of what Chris says above. However the excuse that marijuana dispensaries attract violent crime is an invalid argument for a city to deny permits to properly setup storefront outlets for cooperatives. There are nearly 1,000 permitted outlets that operate with no more crime or violence than out local banks, gas stations and convenience stores. A permitted outlet has many safeguards, including the character of the operator. THEY PROHIBIT HAVING A DOCTOR ON SITE. That is written into the conditional use permit. They require a valid ID like a state issued driver's license or ID card. They require each member to have a currently valid doctor's recommendation copy on file in the outlet. If the member does not have the state/county issued medical marijuana ID card the collective operator calls the office of the doctor and verifies that this doctor did issue this recommendation to this person. AND verifies with the state office that this named doctor is currently licensed to practice in California. Other precautions for the outlet permit include color surveillance cameras inside and outside, an attached safe to hold the inventory, and other precautions. You know there have been many BANK ROBERIES in Murrieta and Temecula. There have also been drug store robberies, Gas station robberies, and convenience store robberies. Most crimes to MMJ outlets occur where cities do not issue permits and all sorts of odd outlets have popped up such as in Los Angeles.
Paul February 21, 2012 at 11:05 AM
It is highly likely that an inititive proposition will be on the November ballot to treat and tax marijuana like wine. It is being circulated now. This one and two other inititives being circulated that are similar to it , but with some important differences. Perhaps the best written one will not get enough signatures because those sponsoring it do not have much experience with getting large numbers of signatures, not the money required to hire it done.
Paul February 21, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Efforts are being made to get the DEA to reclassify MJ from the drug schedule one. History shows it was outlawed 74 years ago by politicians who were getting big time benefits from big pharma and other big donors who had fortunes to gain from MJ being made illegal. It has been kept there ever since for the same reasons. When I first heard this I did not believe it. But it does not take very many hours of research to find out these facts are actually true. Now the DEA with its 10,000 employees does not want to give up their myths, guns and jobs. They are fighting hard to keep marijuana illegal. The politicians who could change it are still benefiting from keeping it illegal. G&W pharmaceuticals with their new medicine extracted from marijuana plants expects to make billions IF they can keep marijuana illegal. Plus the past 74 years of the anti-marijuana propaganda being spread by persons that grew up hearing it makes it more politically difficult to legalize it now. .
Paul February 21, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Now that this place was approved, the operator of the nearby 7-11 naturally also wants to get to sell beer. Every food store in Murrieta sells beer and wine, and most sell whiskey and Vodka too, so why shouldn't every gas station be allowed to sell beer. The small stores need to take precautions that NO employee sells to minors, and the beer needs to be kept where it is not too easy for a shoplifter to pick up some and run with it. (Maybe better if NO gas stations can sell it.) There are about 350 places in Murrieta and Temecula to buy beer already. But it would not be fair to not let this guy on the other corner sell it too, now that the distance rules have been moderated in Murrieta. There are already about 350 local places where people can buy beer to get smashed. Yet the city fathers go berserk and sic lawyers and the police onto any one place that would dare to provide a cooperative outlet for genuinely sick patients to find a reliable outlet for medical marijuana of known quality. Is this really rational? I do not think so! OK so maybe some of those who buy beer or marijuana just want to relax a little and not get drunk or high. It is believed that beer is a gateway to alcoholism. It is now proven that marijuana is not a gateway to hard drugs although most hard drug users have also used it. Those persons would be hard drug users even if marijuana never existed. Modern research shows marijuana is LESS addictive than alcohol, even LESS addictive than coffee.

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