Someone on Facebook asked the reason for a zoning change request for the property on West Campbell Rd where Nikki's restaurant used to be. Two people answered, saying a multi-tenant building is planned, to be occupied by Starbucks and Pei Wei.
I asked why a zoning change request was needed. What's the big deal? One restaurant is being replaced by another (or by two in one multi-tenant building).
After the jump, the answer.
Two people answered me, including Mayor Laura Maczka, who said, "They [Starbucks] have to get a zoning change because there's a drive through. Richardson has an ordinance that any restaurant wanting a drive-through has to come in with a special use permit. That's also why Pollo Tropical had to come before the council last week."
Confession: I knew the answer when I asked the question. I was really looking to see if anyone else wondered, like I did, what's the big deal about drive-throughs? Why do we have an ordinance prohibiting drive throughs if virtually every fast food restaurant wants one and virtually every request for a special use permit for one is granted? We ought to prohibit by ordinance that which we are trying to prohibit and it's clearly not drive-throughs.
If there are traffic considerations involved (and there are) then those considerations ought to be in the ordinance. Maybe it's just too darn complicated to write it all down in an ordinance. I don't accept that, by the way. It's no more complicated than running electricity, water and gas to and through the building. There are plenty of standards and codes for those. We don't require the city council to review the electrical plans and issue a special use permit for a business to have, say, electricity. The council members have no expertise in the subject. Why do we need them to review drive-through plans? They are not professional traffic engineers either. We shouldn't go to them to make technical decisions about the traffic impact of a drive-through restaurant.
All we really need, and should have, is an ordinance saying that a developer needs to get the experts in the city traffic department to sign off that the plans adequately address traffic issues. If, because of zoning enablement statutes or something that I'm not expert in, a special use permit is still required by state law and only the city council can grant that, then at least get it done through the consent agenda (once sign-off by the professionals in the traffic department is obtained). Ordinances that encourage politicians to think they are traffic experts just open our city up to government by whim. Which is what it looks like every time seven elected politicians pore over design drawings asking whether this or that driveway might be just a little too tight a turn for, say, a large pickup truck.