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Atascadero City Council postpones vote on theater building permit

The Atascadero City Council voted 5-0 late Tuesday night to postpone its decision on La Plaza's permit to build a movie theater until its June 8 meeting.

Near the end of Tuesday's roughly three-hour discussion on the project, most of the council was leaning toward not approving its request to build until more specifics were included in its proposal. Details on available parking options, what land the applicants need to buy and where they are on the negotiations to buy those lots, and a conceptual plan detailing additional shopping developments were among the details the council wanted.

It also approved other related aspects. The first was an approval to pay up to $10,000 in city money to fund a study to determine whether two theaters, each with 10 screens, could survive in town. La Plaza applicants say the city can support both theaters, while officials with Galaxy Theater say the city can only support 10 screens.

Mayor Roberta Fonzi said she knows the city has little money, but that the La Plaza proposal is important to the community and no one but a consultant can know whether Atascadero can really support two theaters.

The second aspect was to waive the city's current 40- to 45-foot height restrictions for buildings in the downtown.

Agreeing to give up two road easements to La Plaza was also deferred to June 8.

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An executive with Galaxy Theatres, which is building a theater in downtown Atascadero's Colony Square, has told officials he is no longer certain his company has a future in the city.

In a letter addressed to the Atascadero City Council on Monday, Galaxy Theatres’ Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank Rimkus asked the City Council to think about the market before allowing a competing theater to be built across the street.

The letter was released today.

The Atascadero Planning Commission recommended approval earlier this month for La Plaza Cinemas to be built nearly across the street from the Colony Square project.

While Galaxy welcomes competition, Rimkus wrote, independent studies, of which the city has copies, show that Atascadero can only support 10 movie screens, not 20.

Both La Plaza and Galaxy Theatres are offering 10 screens at their theaters.

“I am concerned that instead of having a successful project in Colony Square, you are poised to create two failed projects,” Rimkus wrote, adding that 20 screens would leave the city with an “over-saturation of theaters.”

His letter ended saying that if La Plaza gets approved, Galaxy will be "forced to review all options."

Rimkus on Tuesday didn’t clarify whether the ending to his letter meant that Galaxy would pull out of Colony Square if La Plaza gets approved, only saying that Galaxy’s “first desire is to be in Atascadero and to be a productive part of Atascadero. But we have other communities that would like us to come in and have other projects that we are working on.”

The City Council is to decide tonight whether to grant the permit to built La Plaza. A change in building’s height requirements and parking will be among the topics discussed.

Rimkus will also go before the council tonight on a separate item to address his theaters' plans for VIP room beer and wine sales. He will answer questions from the council and public on how it will be set up, he said.

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