MORAGA -- The Planning Commission approved the Rheem center Dollar Tree store, but that doesn't mean Dollar Tree is happy about it.
Neither are some residents who have opposed the store's application for more than a month.
Now, all those unhappy people will be headed to the Town Council, which must ultimately make the final call on whether or not the discounter can open in Moraga.
On Tuesday, Dollar Tree appealed the Planning Commission's decision, objecting to the conditions of approval imposed by commissioners. Those conditions include stipulations the store maintain a "showroom" rather than a more utilitarian "warehouse" appearance. In addition, shelving within six feet of a window could not be taller than three feet and any shelving not along a wall could not be taller than six-foot-one.
Those are things the store cannot live with, Dollar Tree representative Linda Duncan told the commission.
"Most of the conditions are arbitrary, capricious and selective in nature," she said.
She declined to specify which conditions the company found objectionable or how the commission could address them to Dollar Tree's satisfaction, saying because the matter was sure to be appealed the proper venue to raise those concerns was with town staff at a later date.
That comment frustrated some commissioners, including Bruce Whitley, who at the end of the meeting said the time and place to address Dollar Tree's concerns was at the
"I am shocked that Dollar Tree thought so little of the town that they didn't want to participate in the process," he said.
In his e-mail to Planning Director Lori Salamack, Dollar Tree attorney Scott Kipnis said the company will provide more details about its objections once it receives more details on the scope and nature of the conditions.
The commission voted 4-1-1 to approve the application. Chairman Jim Obsitnik voted no because he objected to placing any conditions of approval, saying it was not the town's place to regulate the inside of a store.
Commissioner Roger Wykle abstained. Commissioner Stacia Levenfeld was not present.
As at previous meetings, residents opposed to Dollar Tree told the commission the store was inconsistent with Moraga's small-town character and would drive down residential property values.
"A Dollar Tree store is a low-class cheap store," said Moraga resident Muriel Amsden. "The stuff, I'm sorry, is junk."
"The Dollar Tree represents low-quality and throwaway items that are the antitheses of sustainability," said Holly Erickson-King.
The town's planning staff has said they have found no link between the presence of a Dollar Tree and property values.
Several residents also raised safety concerns, saying the company's numerous recalls posed a risk to the community.
Dollar Tree has issued two dozen voluntary recalls since 1995, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission's online recall database.
The key word is voluntary, Duncan said, adding that as one of the nation's largest retailers they are naturally one of the first notified of product defects.
"There's a lot of Toyotas in the parking lot when we showed up," she said. "I guess that recall doesn't matter, but Dollar Tree's does."
Moraga residents have not been unanimously opposed to the store, with several telling the commission that filled space is better than vacant space.
"I do not see anything wrong with the dollar store," resident Phyllis Schultz said Tuesday, adding the store will sell products that appeal to seniors on fixed incomes and those who live in apartments.
Opponents were planning on appealing the store's approval, but now will not have the opportunity because Dollar Tree got their appeal in first. The town only accepts one appeal.
The hearing before the council will be a "de novo" hearing, meaning the council will treat the issue as a completely new matter and any issues relating to the Dollar Tree's application can be raised, Salamack said.
But, with Dollar Tree as both the applicant and the appellant, residents opposed to the store will be limited to the public comment part of the hearing as well as letters and e-mails to the town.
Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Read the Lamorinda Sun blog at www.ibabuzz.com/lamorindasun.