The long-awaited Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store — envisioned as the cornerstone of the city’s Marguerite Street Project — is one step closer to becoming a reality in Williams.
Absent commissioner Nancy Marshall, the Planning Commission voted to approve the project’s Final Environmental Impact Review (FEIR). The approval came at the recommendation of city staff, who found that the project was consistent with the city’s general plan and zoning code.
“It has been a long time coming,” Williams city planner Monica Stegall said. “The process… was all new, and had its own set of challenges… We just kept going and didn’t give up. It’s big deal to finally be here. It feels surreal, because there were honestly times when I wasn’t sure.”
“It’s been a long journey. We’ve certainly had some ups and downs, but we never lost faith that we’d get it done,” Rick Sheffield, the vice president of real estate development for Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores, said after the planning commission approved the environmental documents.
While it has been a slow process to this point, city residents can now expect things to start moving along quickly.
Sheffield told the commission that the timeline for the construction process would be between 8 and 10 months. He added that Love’s would like to move forward with the submission of building plans, so that the requisite permits would be in place by the end of the year.
“(The timeline) is fast… Everybody has been kind of queued to make sure that we’re prepared to turn our plans in and get going on this as soon as possible,” Sheffield said. “The one potential issue is dealing with the holidays at this point… We’re going to have to get our stuff together to get it underway by the end of this year. If it isn’t, it will be shortly after the first of the year.”
City officials are hoping that getting the Love’s Travel Stop built will speed further development along Marguerite Street.
“This is significant, because it’s our first big project over there, and I feel that it will be the first of many,” Stegall said.
What The Project will look like
The Love’s Travel Stop will be constructed on 11.15 acres, located at the southwest corner of Marguerite St. and Highway 20. The proposed project would include a fuel dispensing area with 22 fueling positions for diesel and gas.
The project would also include a 13,582 square-foot convenience store with attached restaurant space, and a separated 6,322 square-foot tire shop.
Jobs for Locals?
Stegall said that the Love’s Travel Center will employ between 40 and 45 full-time employees, with a dozen on site at any time.
“We plan to hire full-time — it’s a lot easier with our 24-hour-a-day operation to hire five, eight-hour days because the schedules stay pretty consistent,” Sheffield said.
Commissioner Don Parsons asked Sheffield whether Love’s puts an emphasis on hiring locally, and Sheffield indicated that the company does.
“We want to hire as much local as we possibly can. As a general rule, the (General Manager) generally is not hired local… but typically, your other management personnel are hired here as well — all of the hourly staff,” Sheffield said.
He added that Loves would coordinate hiring efforts with local agencies and have a hiring trailer on-site when the time came.
“Typically, the management course, (the hiring process will begin) somewhere in the neighborhood of four to five months out. The crew, though, will be about 45 to 60 days out. And we stagger that, because there are certain skill sets with the diesel cashiers or other clerks… (where) we’ll hire them early and take them to specific locations within the general area for specific training,” Sheffield explained.
No Public Comments on EIR
The City of Williams retained Jeff Little — vice president at a Sacramento-based company called Sycamore Environmental Consultants Inc. — to prepare the EIR for the Love’s Travel Stop project. In his presentation to the commission, Little said that there were no public comments received on the report.
“This is an extraordinarily unusual event. We generally get some amount of public comment, and we certainly made sure that there was public notification, but there was nobody who provided any comments. I think everybody realized that this is a great project for the city,” Little said after the meeting.
Little told the commissioners that there was only one significant impact identified in the EIR process that could not be mitigated to less than significant: The lack of traffic signals at the intersection of Marguerite St. and Highway 20.
“Except for some cumulative traffic impacts — an issue that will be resolved later — this project has no significant impacts, and it’s going to be a good thing for the city,” Little said. ■