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Meeting to Cover Plan for Drive-In

Residents will be able to comment tonight on a plan to convert Orange County’s last drive-in movie theater into a retail center.

Los Angeles-based Pacific Theaters, which owns the Hi-Way 39 drive-in at Beach Boulevard and Trask Avenue, wants to develop the property into a commercial project anchored by a Wal-Mart store.

In recent years, drive-in sites in La Habra, Fullerton and Orange have closed to make way for more lucrative retail projects, leaving Hi-Way 39 as the last such theater in Orange County.

Hi-Way 39 opened in 1955 with one screen. It added four more screens in the 1970s.

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At least one Planning Commission member, Earl French, said he favors the retail plan, because the new center could bring the city as much as $500,000 a year in tax revenue.

“I believe we should do this,” he said. “The city needs that revenue, and we don’t have much open space left to develop.”

Part of the proposal that is likely to generate controversy is Pacific Theater’s request to build a 115-foot-tall, 45-foot-wide sign on the property. Some residents have said they fear that it would dominate the landscape in the neighborhood.

City ordinances now limit business signs to 25 feet, though some exemptions have been granted.

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“Some property owners in the area don’t want that sign up there,” French said.

The developer has said the sign is necessary so that the center will be visible from the Garden Grove Freeway, which runs just north of the 25-acre property.

The Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers at City Hall, 8200 Westminster Blvd.


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