Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Love’s withdraws application for Dunnigan truck stop

Nearly a year-and-a-half after first proposing to build a 19-acre truck stop in Dunnigan, the Love’s chain of travel centers has withdrawn its application and will pursue a location in another county.

The project had been opposed from the start by residents of the small Yolo County town because of its proposed location at the intersection of Interstate 5 and County Road 6, an area which residents consider the gateway to their town, and one which would be marred by the presence of a large 24-hour truck stop, they said.

The truck stop would have included two fast-food restaurants, a convenience market, a tire-installation facility, 24 fuel pumps and 120 parking spaces for trucks. In addition to employing 25 to 50 people, the center would have generated an estimated $427,000 annually in county revenue.

That promise of new funding for county programs drew the early support of Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis, who expressed disappointment on Friday at what he called a lost economic development opportunity.

“Love’s is a large company that is welcomed in many places with open arms,” he said. “In our case, Love’s would have generated about a half-million dollars per year in net tax benefits to Yolo County. Those badly needed funds could have been used to re-hire public health nurses, restore much-needed mental health services or fund public safety and other vital needs of the county. It could also have been an important source of jobs and tax revenue for the Dunnigan community.”

But Dunnigan residents themselves were opposed to the project and turned out in large numbers each time the issue came before the board of supervisors in the last 12 months.

When the matter was first heard in March, Provenza was the only supervisor to vote in favor of the truck stop. Following that meeting, he and Supervisor Mike McGowan of West Sacramento formed an ad hoc committee, working with county staff, Dunnigan residents and Love’s to try to find a solution that would bring Love’s to Yolo County, including looking at potential sites on County Road 8 — a location Dunnigan residents supported. But Love’s representatives were adamant that the company was interested only in the County Road 6 location and, failing that, would focus on a Colusa County location instead.

The company requested that the board reconsider the original proposal, which it did in December. Once again, dozens of Dunnigan residents turned out to plead with supervisors not to approve the project.

County Road 6, residents said, is not just the gateway to Dunnigan, but is also intended for community development, including an elementary school, grocery store and medical offices. Putting a truck stop there, opponents said, would permanently change their small community of 1,500 people and Dunnigan’s future plans.

“We don’t need fast-food and convenience stores,” resident Wilma Gullatt told supervisors. “We already have that. We need a school and grocery store. I’m asking you not to be swayed by the $427,000.”

Several representatives of the Pierce Joint Unified School District also spoke out against the truck stop.

Noting that the truck stop would be built close to the planned elementary school, Pierce Superintendent Ernest Sopp said, “This is what students will see when they leave the classroom.”

“Before you make your decision,” he told supervisors, “go to Dunnigan. If your child lived in Dunnigan, what would you want for them? What kind of atmosphere … do you want to create for the children of Dunnigan? There is more at stake here than just profits. This is about building a community.”

At the conclusion of the December public hearing, three supervisors — Provenza, McGowan and Don Saylor of Davis — voted in favor of having staff draw up an agreement with Love’s for the disputed County Road 6 location, though Saylor said at the time he remained undecided on the project. With Supervisors Matt Rexroad of Woodland and Duane Chamberlain of the rural 5th District opposed, Saylor would likely have been the deciding vote had the proposal returned to the board of supervisors on Tuesday as planned.

However, Love’s has since pulled out of the project altogether.

“Love’s is no longer interested in locating a travel center in Yolo County under any condition,” Provenza said Friday, adding that the company was apparently frustrated by the negative response from the local community, the additional conditions being added to the project and other challenges.

“Love’s agreed to 68 conditions initially suggested by our planning department,” Provenza said. “They agreed to several additional conditions thereafter. They also spent substantial sums cleaning up the property and agreed to pay half the cost of a detailed economic study requested by a supervisor. Although we attempted to get them to return to the table after the last two board meetings where this matter was considered, we were unable to do so. The Love family was done.”

Dunnigan residents, meanwhile, expressed relief that the Road 6 location was off the table, but also expressed frustration at Love’s unwillingness to consider the Road 8 option.

“We always said we would welcome Love’s,” said Deanna Kirkland, secretary of the Dunnigan Advisory Committee. “But for them to go to Road 8. It was always in the plans for truck-related services to be located at Road 8 and they just refused to do it.”

“The people here, we weren’t against Love’s,” she added. “But Love’s pretty much wants what Love’s wants, and they want to do it their way and, unfortunately, it can’t always happen that way.”

Provenza had a different take.

“Many developers hire lobbyists, public relations firms and lawyers to push their projects,” he said. “Love’s clearly has the ability to pursue this approach, but they do not do so. Instead, they look for locations where their business is welcome.

“If Yolo County expects to attract economic development, we need to do a much better job of understanding the culture of the businesses who seek to locate here and craft reasonable plans that result in a win for both the community and the enterprise involved.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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