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Angels clears path for businesses


Businesses that want to change locations or new businesses moving into existing buildings in Angels Camp might find their path a little shorter thanks to a new ordinance.

The ordinance, approved by the city council Tuesday, allows the city planner to approve site plans for certain developments rather than having the planning commission review the site plan and hold a public hearing.

"This is saving one step in the process," said City Planner Amy Augustine. "We're trying to streamline things and also be more user-friendly."

Although two councilmen — Bill Hutchinson and Paul Raggio — disagreed with the new ordinance, the other three council members — Mayor Debbie Ponte, Vice Mayor Curly Middleton and Lee Seaton — approved it.

With the change, the city planner will be able to approve site plans only when a business is moving into an existing building and when there will be no significant changes to the structure and no change in parking, signs or landscaping — in other words, when the only change is in how the building is used.

Of the five site plan reviews conducted by the planning commission last year, one would have qualified under the new ordinance to be approved by the city planner.

That one is Aspen Street Architects' move into the old Calaveras Lumber building on Highway 49 at the north end of town.

Aspen Street owner Dave Hitchcock spoke in favor of the new ordinance, telling the council it took 11 weeks from the time he applied for a site plan review to when the planning commission was able to review it.

Augustine said if the ordinance had been in place, Hitchcock's review could have been completed in 30 days.

Angels Camp resident Elaine Morris told the council she was uncomfortable with allowing the city planner to approve site plans. She said there should be a public hearing on any change of use.

"The residents have the inherent right to be involved with the development of their city," she said.

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