Tonight the Paso Robles Planning Commission was expected to deal with a controversial issue. The Paso Robles Casino, a local poker card room, had asked to move into a building, currently home to Knight’s Carpet on Ramada Drive, that was purchased by the card room owners about a year ago. The move was opposed by Adam Firestone of Firestone Walker Brewing Co. and other nearby property owners.
In a last-minute settlement of the dispute, Firestone agreed to buy the building from the casino owners to avert the move. This was an excellent solution, in my opinion.
There were two items before the commission. The first was a request to add card rooms as a possible use in industrial-zoned areas. The second was a request for a conditional use permit for the card room to operate there after the zoning changes. As a planning commissioner, I took some time speaking to the card room operator, Firestone and another nearby property owner. I itemized several of their concerns. I also spoke to the police chief and a few casino patrons. Here the objections I heard along with my thoughts.
1. Would a zone change mean other types of businesses can move into the area?
I looked into this a bit and the answer is no. State law will not allow any more card rooms to be opened in Paso Robles. Additional, the Paso Robles Casino is limited to six tables. If they have a larger location they may use more space for food and beverage service, but not more tables.
2. Will there be a problem with traffic after hours?
It seems reasonable to expect some traffic, but with only six tables, it would not be much, in my opinion. The building is very close to a freeway on/off ramp, which would allow traffic to move to and from the card room rather well. It’s current location on the north end of town does not seem to create a traffic problem.
3. Will a lack of police service be a problem?
I asked Paso Robles Police Chief Robert Burton if the casino, in its current location, is a problem for police. He said no. “We have had 12 calls for service there in the past 5 years,” he said. “Nothing since September 2014. No pattern of anything significant. The calls range from overdue parked vehicles, to graffiti and a few arguments in the parking lot.”
4. Will a card room increase local crime?
I think there is a misunderstanding of the clientele at card rooms. I have played at the current location once and know a few people who play often. The clientele is not poor or folks who fit a crime demographic. They are mostly professionals, including several business owners, who have the expendable money to gamble as their pastime.
5. Does the card room belong in this gateway to Paso Robles?
The card room already is at a gateway to town on the north end. This would actually be an improvement because the new location would have provided a nicer venue with more modest sineage. I think part of the argument behind this objection is that some people find gambling a moral flaw and don’t want to encourage it. My feeling is that it is on par with drinking alcohol, which our city wholeheartedly embraces.
6. Would this be setting bad precedent because it is ‘spot zoning’?
Spot zoning is making an exemption to a zoning law that doesn’t fit surrounding uses, such as putting a commercial business in the middle of a residential street. I think that in this situation the argument does not apply. Many card rooms throughout the state are located in industrial areas, because it makes sense. I looked at other businesses in the same area and think that adding card rooms to industrial zoning would be a good fit.
Businesses near Knights carpet
- Jack in the Box
- Arco gas station
- Chevron gas station
- Taproom Restaurant
- Firestone Walker Brewery
- New Day Youth Center
- County Drug and Alcohol Center
- Mid State Baptist Church
- Quinn Tractor Rental
- Wayne’s Tire
- Antiques Vineyard
Based on my review of the request to change the zoning and considering the objections, I would have been inclined to support card room moving. I think that Firestone purchasing the property was a great way to resolve the issue and I’m glad it was a win-win for both parties. So instead of a long meeting with dozens of outraged citizens (on both sides of the issue), we will have a peaceful meeting about two cell phone towers… I hope.
Here’s the latest story on the topic from the Paso Robles Daily News:
Firestone buys Knight’s Carpet building from card room owner
“I think it’s a win-win situation,” said Adam Firestone
Firestone Walker Brewing Company and the Paso Robles Casino card room today announced the sale of 1649 Ramada Drive, the current location of Knight’s Carpet and a once proposed location of an expansion to the card-room, to the brewery. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
The card room tabled its application to relocate to Ramada Drive currently pending before the Paso Robles Planning Commission and City Council in favor of a different direction. The casino and Firestone sparred last year after the planning commission approved the Knight’s Carpet location for the casino. Adam Firestone and nearby property owners protested the move at a city council meeting and the council reversed the planning commissions decision. Casino operators then accused Firestone of having an undisclosed plan to buy the building. Late last year, the casino operators received permission from the council to reapply for the move, which involved a minor zoning change and a conditional use permit.
“We still plan to continue somewhere else,” said Rob Ezzell, operator of the card-room with his brother Don, saying that it has always been their plans to expand and that they will continue to press forward. When asked why they decided to accept the offer from Firestone and continue with another location, Ezzell declined an answer.
Adam Firestone said that he believed the sale to be a, “win-win” situation, saying that the Ezzells were a pleasure to do business with, and were very professional throughout the process. Firestone said that it was the brewery’s goal to, “keep everybody happy” in the neighborhood surrounding the brewery, and that there was a “different vision proposed for the neighborhood,” before they purchased the building— i.e. the building of the Paso Robles Casino. Firestone stated that he didn’t believe that the prior direction was necessarily a bad direction, but simply that it didn’t reflect the, “vision of the neighborhood.”
According to a press release from the Ezzells, all parties believe the transaction is in the best interest of the various local business, residential, and community stakeholders that showed interest in the relocation.
There is no planned change in the use of the building. The Knight’s Carpet & Interiors business will continue to serve its customers throughout the Central Coast from 1649 Ramada Drive.
When asked if the brewery had plans of expansion, or if they were interested in purchasing other surrounding buildings, Firestone said no, the brewery will not be expanding, and that the purchase was simply an effort to keep things, “as they are,” in the neighborhood.