A state court of appeals decision filed this week in favor of a developer and San Juan Bautista paved the way for a new gas station at The Alameda and Highway 156.
California’s Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled in the case filed by the “Alliance of Concerned Citizens Organized for Responsible Development.” The ruling favored the respondent, in this case the City of San Juan Bautista and gas station developer Harbhajan Dadwal.
The case stemmed from an early 2014 city council approval of the proposal for a fuel station, convenient store and quick-serve restaurant at the location near the hotel known as Hacienda de Leal. Dadwal plans to build an AM/PM business at the intersection of the highway adjacent to
Its owner Frank Leal spurred the legal action through the ACCORD group, which filed a lawsuit after the council decision arguing the project should needed an environmental impact report, and that it would cause significant noise and traffic impacts to the town.
The appeals court decision filed Monday ruled against Leal’s side and affirmed the lower trial court’s 2014 decisions. From here, the project is scheduled to move ahead unless Leal’s side files can appeal to the State Supreme Court.
The AM/PM would be the second gas station in the Mission City to go with the Valero at 63 Muckelemi St.
“We’re obviously pleased by the fact that the court of appeal upheld the trial court decision to find that the approval was correctly done by the city,” said Anthony Lombardo, the attorney for Dadwal, who owns a slate of gas stations in the region to go with a Marina hotel, a Subway and other real estate. “He’s going to move forward with the project.”
Lombardo said the developer must now address several conditions as part of the project such as a highway deceleration lane near the spot. An architect must move ahead with design work that had been delayed by the years-long court action as well, Lombardo said.
Although a precise timeline is unclear for the project, Lombardo said Dadwal is pleased he can be part of the San Juan business community.
“It’s going to provide a lot of services,” the attorney said, noting how diesel fuel will be available there. “A lot of late-night grocery needs can be met and things like that, that this town doesn’t have now.”
Representing San Juan through the years has been City Attorney Deborah Mall. On Wednesday, Mall clarified on the process end that the appellate court has 30 days to change its decision before the petitioner, Leal’s group, would have 10 days to appeal to the State Supreme Court.
Mall noted how Dadwal’s side had indemnified the city of any costs and took the lead with the city’s legal defense.
San Juan City Councilman John Freeman responded on the appeals court decision Wednesday by estimating the new gas station could generate a six-figure sum in sales taxes for the city.
The appeal by the ACCORD side was challenging two lower court decisions from 2016. Aside from environmental issues, Leal’s side also argued that the city’s initial decision also went against San Juan’s own zoning code and a municipal law restricting certain “formula” or franchise businesses in the town. Leal couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.
On the environmental side, the plaintiff argued the city should have gone ahead with a full environmental impact report instead of the less intensive negative declaration that was done for the project.