What was nominally a routine item to process an addition of allowable uses in a commercial zone turned into an almost hour-long digression after Freddie Rodriguez mouthed some objections to push back the issue to the future. King Equipment is a vendor of scissor lifts, forklifts, and golf carts. They have outgrown their Ontario location and thought that the former Rancho Valley Chevrolet building and site would be a good location for them, such that the building is already built and can accommodate their needs. The Planning Commission certainly thought so, voting 7-0 to approve both the zone amendment and the conditional use permit. According to the applicant's representative, King Equipment could generate over $10 million annually in sales to Pomona, and an additional $10 million in leases. This is over six figures of sales tax revenue per year that the City is abandoning.
He did not verbalize what those objections were, although Cristina Carrizosa expressed some uncertainty about a construction dealer coexisting with a Target (and a future home improvement store, which has not been signed yet, that may be more compatible with the type of equipment sold). But these items were discussed at the Planning Commission level, and were presumably resolved. Certainly no one objected to it at that stage, hence the 7-0 vote. Rodriguez wanted to push the issue to the end of January, something that Paula Lantz objected to strongly, and others piled on. Therefore, this matter was postponed only two weeks - while not as damaging as two months, still enough to add uncertainty.
Also, City staff failed to notify the applicant that an appeal to the conditional use permit approval was filed. The City Clerk made an excuse that the appeal was filed too late, and would have been sent to the applicant on Tuesday, and Community Development Director Mark Lazaretto also stated that normal procedures would have been followed, which did not entail giving the applicant a courtesy contact on the appeal - indeed, Planning Manager Brad Johnson informed the applicant that the zone amendment item was routine and did not warn the applicant of any problems.
Incidentally Freddie Rodriguez campaigned against red tape for Pomona businesses. Yet by not clearly articulating what exactly the issue was at the meeting, there is no way for the future business owner to address it. It took another council member to state her objections to the project, which while reasonable should have been made earlier in the process. So King Equipment may end up going to Chino or Chino Hills (which also have vacant auto dealerships and lower sales taxes than Pomona to boot), leaving the Rancho Valley Chevrolet empty and moving sales tax revenue to another city. Also, overturning a 7-0 Planning Commission decision sets a horrible precedent to businesses, who will not spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours preparing plans and elevations, and paying fees for a project that will not happen.
With the new City Council members Debra Martin and John Nolte being sworn in two weeks, this will be one of their first decisions - to determine whether Pomona will continue to attract business, or show, as with the transfer station decision and other choices, that Pomona wants to be too perfect, when being perfect leads to bankruptcy.
Show up on the evening of December 3 and urge the City Council to not schedule a public hearing for the conditional use permit appeal and approve the zone amendment to allow construction equipment dealers as the same as auto dealers, still subject to individual site-specific conditions. Support Pomona tax revenue and oppose last minute surprises sprung by politicians. More details as the meeting gets closer.