White Bear Lake – Big Mac or Taco to Go?
Taco Bell’s proposal near McDonald’s on Centerville Road would give fast food lovers a few options. However, neither city planners are keen on adjoining cars for adjacent parking, nor does the applicant require the installation of a 55-foot tower sign visible from I-35E.
The applicant/owner, Marvin Development III LLC/Border Foods, hopes to sub-segment the White Oak Retail Center for an independent Taco Bell at 4600 Centerville Road. The property is landlocked with easements to the north and south to allow access to service drives located at the Walgreen and Lunds & Byerly locations.
Border Foods is a local franchisee of Taco Bell Corp. It has operated Taco Bell Restaurants since 1996. Marvin Development LLC, on behalf of Border Foods, is proposing to purchase the eastern portion of the existing property for a 2,900-square-foot rectangular building with a single lane. The PUD is required to provide flexibility from certain aspects of the zoning code.
At this point, the Strip Mall, owned by John and Stephen Moriarty, has one tenant, Anytime Fitness. Plans for the second phase failed in 2013 and entitlements to expand the building expired. Since then, both the 113-unit senior housing project in the North and the supermarket have been developed, “to ramp up the perimeter development pattern and further define access and traffic,” explained Samantha Crosby, planning and zoning coordinator.
Staff does not support directing restaurant traffic through parking lots, Crosby told the planning committee, a configuration not found anywhere in the city.
“Insider trading of the property is going to be a problem,” she said. “Guiding customers through the Anytime Fitness parking lot on their way to and through the front entrance to Lunds & Byerly at checkout is less than ideal.”
Marvin III development director Zach Zelickson noted at a May 23 meeting that a previous board had approved a conditional use permit for command facilities in a strip mall, something Crosby then clarified.
The site’s original plans, which date back 15 years, called for a drive-through at one end of the 15,000-square-foot retail building. It was approved. She noted that a second payment was approved with the second phase expansion conceptually only and was contingent on approval of the conditional use permit.
Zelickson disagreed with the staff’s opinion about using too much at the grocery store. “We don’t direct traffic through Lunds & Byerly’s,” he said. “We know the site will work.”
He added that the franchisor has undergone “many iterations” of the proposal since October, and believes the proposed plan provides a unique solution for a large-scale vacant site that matches the retail precinct.
“We really think this will work. It fits perfectly,” Zelikson told the commissioners. “If it was going to create a disaster, we wouldn’t be here.”
It was noted that McDonald’s just south of the site has a dedicated access lane through the Walgreens car park that allows indoor trading.
Regarding signage, pylon signs are not permitted in the zoning area in which the restaurant is located. Crosby added that the applicant made the order based on the McDonald’s column next door, which was part of the PUD application in 1993. If Taco Bell got the pylon mark, Lunds & Byerly’s said he wanted one, too.
“The proposed PUD appears to be creating a lot that was never meant to be, for use with poor insider trading and a mark that would not be allowed otherwise,” Crosby said. “A project can be approved, but just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s desirable.”
President Jim Perry said it was too bad that the applicant might “lift” the project and “disrupt” the grocery store. “There are so many hurdles to cross, and there is chaos to cross,” he said.
The committee voted 5-0 to reject the application, following a staff recommendation.
The PUD application is submitted before the City Council on June 14.