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Every building counts: McDonald’s remodel appeal
When noted planning expert Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute visited Amador County last March, he said, “Community character deteriorates one building and one project at a time. It can be restored one building and one project at a time.”

That restoration may soon be underway in Martell, where Mother Lode community character has largely given way to commercial architecture typical of “Anywhere U.S.A.,” or at least “Anywhere California.” As we detailed in the last Focus, McDonald’s announced earlier this year that it was planning to remodel its Martell restaurant. Corporate officials then convinced the Amador County Planning Commission to revoke the one condition in the restaurant’s 1992 use permit that related to its appearance — “Condition 19” — which specified exterior color and surface materials.

Former Planning Commissioner Brian Jobson, who helped write the condition in 1992, appealed the planning commission decision to the Amador County Board of Supervisors. He was joined by a number of local citizens: business owners, a planner, an architect, and others. The appellant group, led by then Jackson Vice-Mayor Keith Sweet, began a community campaign to show that local residents support good, historically consistent architecture for McDonald’s rather than the boxy, bright modern style planned for the remodel.

The appellants conducted an online visual preference survey, authored an editorial for the local paper, set up a Facebook page, appeared on radio and TV, and circulated photos comparing the proposed McDonald’s with the one in Angels Camp. The Amador Ledger Dispatch posted an online survey, too. All of the informal surveys showed an overwhelming local preference for design that fits the community character of the Mother Lode.

On October 25, the Amador County Board of Supervisors held the public hearing on the appeal. Sweet represented the appellants and Area Construction Manager Margaret Trujillo represented McDonald’s. After their presentations and comments from the supervisors present, the public had its turn to speak. Speaker after speaker rose to support requiring McDonald’s to employ a design that fits the Mother Lode character of Amador County’s Highway 49 corridor. Only one individual spoke in favor of allowing McDonald’s to proceed as it wished.

After a brief break, Trujillo returned to the speaker’s podium to request a continuance. During the break, she and one of the appellants discussed their desire to find a mutually acceptable solution. Sweet agreed, and the supervisors obliged by continuing the appeal hearing to Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

We checked with Sweet for this article and learned that the appellants recently met with McDonald’s owner Craig Schrader, Trujillo, and another McDonald’s representative. The parties agreed to continue working on a solution that would meet McDonald’s business needs and the community’s desire for a more historically appropriate design.

If you would like to speak up on this issue, be sure to attend the continued appeal hearing January 10. For more information, contact Keith Sweet at 419-3770.

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