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EILEEN VANSELL, San Juan Capistrano

Just when we thought we had finally discarded the nickname “fast food row,” San Juan Capistrano citizens will be forever linked to such unpleasantry thanks to our City Council’s recent approval of In-N- Out in the center of town. What happened to preserving our small-town heritage? No, the current councilmembers feel that attracting freeway stops is more important than a Western welcome to the home of the swallows.

Some will say that the landowner has a right to use his property as he sees fit. The role of the council, however, is not to appease a single landowner to the detriment of the community, especially when the use requires special exceptions.  The In-N-Out will most definitely have a negative impact on our lives, as it backs up traffic all along Del Obispo Street all hours of the day and night. Council cites traffic reports as proof that such chaos will not come to pass, but one only has to go to nearby In-N-Out locations at Antonio/Ortega or on Camino Capistrano, or at EVERY other In-N-Out ever built, to see the fallacy of this report. Councilmembers can disagree with information presented to them, and often do.  No landowner has the right to receive discretionary permits when his desired property use would bring greater harm to the community.

This property can be used in many other ways which don’t require exceptions to our codes, which will enhance our historic community, and which can provide potential job opportunities to our residents. The In-N-Out is not in character with the overall community plan and is not the only solution for the use of this property. We need something that encourages visitors to park, not drive through, and enjoy multiple local businesses as they visit our quaint town. Councilmember John Taylor correctly stated, “It does not fit the vision (we) have for our downtown.”

I am sorely disappointed with councilmembers Hart, Bourne and Farias who voted to advance the approval of this property use for an In-N-Out, and I hope that their error will be evident to the rest of the community who will not support them in the next election.

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