Council requires study of theaters

The Atascadero City Council on Tuesday told city staff that it wants to stand by its original decision to require a study of the proposed La Plaza Cinemas project.

The 4-1 vote requires a feasibility study on whether 20 screens can survive in the market, a parking impact analysis, an expanded master plan and a downtown height-limit zone change. Councilman Bob Kelley dissented.

La Plaza planners have said they won’t agree to a third-party feasibility study that the council required in May.

Applicant Larry Wysong did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The council must grant or deny the project by Nov. 27, according to city staff, citing the permit application deadlines.

The council is still considering whether to grant La Plaza a conditional-use permit to build nearly across the street from the competing Galaxy Theatres, which is now under construction. Galaxy is being built in Colony Square — a development subsidized by city taxpayers with $1.5 million.

Both theaters have presented to the council conflicting numbers on how two movie theaters would survive in the market.

The council says it needs a third-party conclusion because La Plaza and Galaxy publicly disagree whether the market could support 20 screens.

The council doesn’t want two potentially defunct theater buildings in downtown Atascadero.

Theater operator John Roush has said he wouldn’t build the theater without a larger commercial project around it, but Wysong’s application was for only the theater.

Councilman Tom O’Malley on Tuesday said that confused the council, which is why it required the additional studies.

Wysong said he refuses to further inflate the issue with public debate. However, he is open to continued talks with the city about the proposal, he told The Tribune on Monday.

Meanwhile, Galaxy officials said its theater’s opening is delayed to early 2011 from its original November estimate.