MORAGA -- The Dollar Tree will come to the Rheem shopping center next year, despite the objections of many residents who argued the discount retailer had no place in their small, upscale community.
The council this week denied an appeal from residents opposed to the store, removing the final barrier to the store coming in.
The decision ended a months-long debate between the retailer and residents who pointed to everything from the many recalls of products sold at Dollar Tree to its alleged effect on home values.
Council members said Wednesday they were sympathetic to residents' concerns but could not reject a store legally permitted to operate in the Rheem center.
"Every business has to be treated fairly and equitably, even if it is a business that some of us would prefer not to be here," said Vice Mayor Karen Mendonca.
The debate Wednesday centered on the sale of food and drink.
The store foes, led by residents Hollie Lucas-Alcalay, Lynn Davis and Kathy Macchi, argued that because Dollar Tree would offer food and beverage items, it could not operate in the Rheem center without a special permit.
Restaurants and other retail businesses that sell food and beverages wanting to open in Moraga must apply for a conditional use permit, which gives officials more discretion over their approval.
"This is not a nuance or a technicality," the group said in a statement Thursday. "This is the code and this is the law."
Although the group is reading the law correctly, said Planning Director Lori Salamack, the town's practice has been to apply that rule only to businesses for which food and beverage sales make up a significant portion of their sales. Dollar Tree is general merchandise retailer, not a food retailer, she said.
Council members agreed with Salamack but required Dollar Tree to limit the floor space dedicated to prepackaged food sales to 10 percent.
The council also removed conditions approved by the Planning Commission that would have regulated signs and shelving heights.
Salamack said the town's Design Review Board has already approved the signs and that Moraga has not regulated shelving at other retailers.
The council also decided the Dollar Tree will not have to compensate the town for any legal expenses incurred as a result of the approval. Such a requirement, Salamack said, could discourage other businesses from coming to Moraga.
Councilman Dave Trotter objected to removing the compensation requirement and cast the lone no vote on the final approval.
Davis said she and other opponents have not yet decided whether to take legal action.
Representatives for Dollar Tree did not attend Wednesday's meeting, and Dollar Tree attorney Michael Di Geronimo could not be reached for comment.
Contact Jonathan Morales as 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.