Candidates for Arroyo Grande City Council and mayor were asked at a recent forum for their views on numerous issues, from a proposed Food 4 Less to whether the iconic chickens in the Village should remain.
“As long as they’re not killer chickens, I’m OK with (them),” council candidate Tim Brown said.
Four candidates are running in November for two council seats, including Brown, a current city planning commissioner, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Shannon Kessler, resident Heidi Laurenzano and current Councilman Joe Costello.
Resident Tim Moore is challenging current Mayor Tony Ferrara for his seat.
All the candidates except Laurenzano, who works a night shift as a foreman’s assistant at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, participated in a Sept. 30 forum hosted by the Arroyo Grande Chamber of Commerce. Ferrara called in by phone.
The candidates gave varying suggestions when asked what the city’s downtown area will look like in five years and whether they’d alter any current city policies.
Kessler, 42, said she’d like to see the Village area become more “walkable” and would like more bike lanes.
Kessler said she would work to attract new businesses and would look at how the city can smooth the way, including reviewing fees and the permit process, to help existing businesses.
She also said she would support a Food 4 Less grocery store, which the council will consider allowing to be built at East Grand Avenue and South Courtland Street.
Laurenzano said in a previous interview that she was supportive of the proposed grocery store. The other candidates — except for Ferrara — offered more ambiguous views of the plan. Moore, Brown and Costello said they’d wait until they saw the modified proposal before making a decision.
In a statement read at the candidate forum, Laurenzano, 37, proposes to examine water rates and possibly streamline the permitting process to help small businesses. She also wants to set up volunteer networks to make sure students get to school and back home safely.
In her statement, she said she would bring a “fresh perspective and strong values based on God’s word.”
Ferrara lives too close to the proposed Food 4 Less to vote for it as a council member but said as a citizen he is concerned about how such a store would affect the surrounding supermarkets.
Spencer’s Fresh Market is located diagonally across the street from the proposed store; Cookie Crock Warehouse is located a few blocks east; and a Von’s grocery store is also located in Grover Beach a few blocks west.
Ferrara noted that enhancements to the Village are ongoing, with the council having approved a land-swap plan in August that will demolish one city building and construct a 5,802-square-foot commercial building at East Branch and Short streets.
As part of the deal, the city purchased the former Farm Credit building at 300 E. Branch St. from developer Nick Tompkins and has relocated some city staff there.
Ferrara also noted the city’s plan for adding additional parking spots to a lot on Le Point Street is moving ahead.
Moore, 49, opposed the project in the Village and said if elected, he would work to return the Farm Credit building to Tompkins and look for a new city hall building.
Moore thinks the city should be more transparent, and he would like more parking and better traffic flow through the Village.
He also said the chickens — which a number of years ago took up residence around City Hall — are a potential hazard for children and local businesses. Ferrara, Brown, Kessler and Costello agreed the chickens should stay, as long as the population is controlled.
Costello, 59, has served eight years on the council and four years on the Planning Commission. He urged voters to support Proposition 22, which would prohibit the state from delaying distribution of tax revenues used for transportation, redevelopment or local government projects and services. Opponents say public schools stand to lose funds if it passes.
In five years, he said, the Village should have a grocery store again and perhaps another two or three additional restaurants.
“I look forward to other potential ways to save additional dollars and ways to share services with other communities,” Costello said.
Brown, 49, has served on the city’s Planning Commission for about seven-and-a-half years.
He also hopes a market will again be added to the Village, and said that some sidewalks in the area need to be fixed. He thinks that even more parking may be needed in the Village, suggesting a parking structure could be built at the Le Point Street lot.
Brown also mentioned several other issues that weren’t raised at the forum, including upgrading the Brisco Road interchange with Highway 101, addressing space needs at the city’s police station, and finding a long-term water supply to meet the city’s eventual water needs.
Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.