University District community citizens walked out of the council chambers on Oct. 15 after city leaders granted McDonalds' representatives a delay to reevaluate plans for their new location.
The community was led out by their attorney, David Wade, who called the delay “fruitless” and a “waste of time.” Wade and many members of the UD community object to having a drive-thru loop on Highland and Southern Avenue, which completely neglecting the University District Overlay.
Since its adoption, every project has “required some type of variance to meet the overlay,”
said Brian Bacchus from the Office of Planing and Development.
Planners for the new restaurant remain steadfast about having a drive-thru despite it conflicting with the plan meant to maintain the aesthetic of the UD.
SR Consulting LLC representative, Cindy Reaves, assured the council members that the civil engineering firm would use the extra time to adopt a better plan that will meet “more of the intent of the overlay” but still include a drive-thru.
Despite there being locations that do not have a drive-thru, the planning committee does not believe that the UD is demographically fit to support the restaurant. Typically, locations without a drive-thru are in areas with more foot traffic.
Reaves said approximately 70 percent of the revenue earned by McDonalds is generated by its drive-thrus. Planners doubt the restaurant could be successful without it.
“We are willing to do whatever we can do to make the loop more palpable,” Reaves said. “The overlay was never written to allow drive-thru restaurants to function properly and safely.”
Prior to voting, council members relayed their thoughts to the UD community sitting in front of them. Councilman Jim Strickland urged members to not vote for a delay since the planning team remained stiff-necked about the drive-thru.
Conversely, Councilman Shea Flinn called back a similar situation from 2010. He called the approval of the CVS located on Union Avenue and Cooper “less good” and assured the room that the best course of action is delaying review of the project “for the best possible compromise.”
The council voted 9-4 to delay the review until Dec. 17.