I was never a fan of what I called Restaurant Row. Even today, there still isn't much "Park" in "Restaurant Park." Looking back on comments from the time it was approved by the City Council, one public speaker presciently asked what the City's commitment to the original West Spring Valley Planned Development would be going forward. It's still an open question, but with Monday's vote, there's a glimmer of hope again. What was approved for Restaurant Park seven years ago was already a major modification to the PD vision (the first lowering of the bar). Then, in December, 2020, another major modification was made by approving a restaurant with pre-order/pre-paid drive through service (the second lowering of the bar). Now, six months later, the City was asked to relax the zoning yet again, this time to allow a conventional drive-through with menu board and onsite order and payment system for a Dave's Hot Chicken restaurant (the third lowering of the bar, or perhaps stated more accurately, the removal of the bar altogether). What's different between now and six months ago when the City Council first approved a somewhat restricted drive through, is that there are three new council members. They and a fourth who had conflicted feelings in December, rejected the proposed complete surrender of the original vision for this site. It was a welcome sight.
Elections have consequences, but maybe only incrementally. That was shown in the vote for another special use permit for a drive-through restaurant. This second one was for a Popeye's chicken restaurant on Belt Line Rd just east of Plano Rd. The council ended up approving that in a 5-2 vote, with only Justice and Corcoran voting no. So, Richardson will be getting another old-style, pad-site drive-through restaurant. Our new council's majority is still not reliably opposed to 1980s-style development. But it looks like we might have two votes for a vision of the future with a more adaptable, sustainable development form for Richardson. The residents of Richardson need to work to increase those numbers. Elections have consequences, if slowly sometimes.