County OKs movie theater expansion

Two years ago, the owners of Premier Cinemas were unable to
annex a patch of county land into the city and build a ten-screen
multiplex. But as it turns out, the failed annexation created a
loophole around Hollister’s building moratorium.
Hollister – Two years ago, the owners of Premier Cinemas were unable to annex a patch of county land into the city and build a ten-screen multiplex. But as it turns out, the failed annexation created a loophole around Hollister’s building moratorium.

Since the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a zoning change Tuesday, now all the theater needs to break ground on the project is the building permits.

“Obviously we’re very happy with the outcome of the vote,” general manager Sergio Contreras said.

Premier wanted to annex a 4.8-acre plot of county land into the city in 2002, but couldn’t after the state slapped a building moratorium on Hollister after a 15-million gallon sewer spill. Rather than waiting for the city to build a new sewer plant by the Oct. 2005 deadline, Premier realized they could build on the county land immediately.

Until the building moratorium ends and the new cinema is annexed into Hollister, the 992-seat theater will use its own private septic tank so it won’t affect the city’s sewer system. Once the property is annexed in, Premier will get rid of its private system and hook into the city’s.

Premier Cinemas Board of Directors member Albert Silva Jr. said Premier should have its building permits within about three months, and Contreras said site work should begin as early as January or February.

“I don’t think we’re going to start before the new year, but we’ll hopefully have it finished by September or October,” Contreras said.

Silva said the theater should do well because Hollister is sorely in need of entertainment venues.

“This is going to be good for Hollister because there’s not a lot to do here. The kids especially have nothing else to do,” he said.

And Premier’s current theater doesn’t provide as many entertainment options as it could, Silva said. With six screens and 700 seats, the theater on McCray Street can’t accommodate all of the movies coming out these days, causing the theater to miss out on many films, said Silva.

“You need to play movies for two or three weeks, and especially during the busy seasons like May and Christmas, we just don’t have the screens to play all the movies that are coming out,” he said.

Adjacent property owner Mary Zanger was the only opposition to the project Tuesday. She said the larger theater would demand more parking spaces and too many people were already parking in front of buildings she owns in the area such as the McCray building and the Urgent Care facility.

“We already have people parking in areas marked ‘Urgent Care One Hour Parking’ who go into the theater for two hours. And then the people who need the urgent care have nowhere to park,” Zanger said.

The board recommended Zanger try putting up additional signage on her property and striping the sidewalks before changing the zoning on the lot from rural to commercial. The theater plans include an additional 248 parking spaces – meeting the city and county requirements of one space for every four theater seats – and a mini-storage facility at the rear of the property.

Jessica Quandt covers politics for the Free Lance. Reach her at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or at [email protected]

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