Grocery store eyed in south Merced rezoning

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comNovember 20, 2012 

In an attempt to attract a grocery store to south Merced, officials are moving forward with a zoning change to several acres of city-owned property.

The City Council unanimously voted Monday to introduce a rezoning ordinance for about 5.6 acres of land, which would require retail developers to include grocery sales in all project proposals.

"I just want to say thank you to the city planning staff," said Mary-Michal Rawling. "I'm just excited that we're that much closer to accomplishing one of our objectives."

Over recent months, many people, including city officials, have expressed concern about the availability of food for residents living in south Merced.

The proposal would rezone the two parcels at 406 Childs Ave., and 112 S. Canal St., to a commercial shopping district, changing them from low-medium density residential. City officials said they hope to bring in grocery stores, shopping centers or other retail businesses.

"It's a way to try to encourage a developer to come in and put a grocery store (or) shopping center in south Merced," said Kim Espinoza, city planning manager. "We don't have a particular developer at this point, but if the zoning's in place, it's easier for a developer to come in and build it."

Under the ordinance any shopping center to locate in the area would have to dedicate at least 5,000 square feet to the sale of groceries. All retail operations larger than 20,000 square feet would be required to devote 25 percent of its space to food sales.

The ordinance is expected to be back before the council for a second reading Dec 3. If approved, the zoning change would go into effect in 30 days.

Also, city officials voted unanimously to rezone several city parking areas to "public parking" from "central commercial." There are three vacant parcels in locations downtown. Two more parcels are occupied by the city-owned parking garage at 18th and M streets.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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