City hears request for more drive-throughs in commercial development on River Road

The owners of the South Bridge Planned Development on the corner of River Road and 1450 South are working with city staff to explore the possibilities of increasing drive-thru access points. St. George, Utah, Aug. 31, 2020 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The St. George City Council is weighing a request by the developer of a commercial development project that would wave current restrictions on the number of drive-through access points on the site.

When originally considered by the city Planning Commission, and approved by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, the South Bridge Planning Development, formally known as Boulder Creek Commons, at the intersection of River Road and 1450 South, was limited to three drive-through access points on the larger south side of the property with no restrictions on the north side along 1450 South.

Utah-based CapMarc LLC and Stillwater Equity Partners have applied for the rezoning to amend this condition of approval to this development.

According to the applicant, the demand for drive-through access from both the retailers and consumers have been increased because of restraints associated with the impacts of COVID-19.

According to documents submitted to the city, Stillwater believes that removing the condition of approval to allow for more drive-through access will “help this project move forward in a positive direction as it will benefit the community, the businesses that look to locate here, and ultimately, the city.”

The City Council is currently considering a zoning change request that could allow up to seven drive-throughs on site. The Planning Commission has recommended maintaining the status quo.

So far, the City Council and Mayor Jon Pike have reservations about making any changes but plan to consider all options.

Artist rendering of the South Bridge Planned Development on the corner of River Road and 1450 South. Rendering courtesy city St. George, St. George News

“The only thing I would be concerned about is queuing space if it happens to be a popular place for drive-throughs,” Pike said.

Councilwoman Dannielle Larkin echoed Pike’s concerns.

“I remember when this first came forward and the neighbors had a valid point regarding (automotive) emissions,” Larkin said. “You have … drive-throughs with all of the cars sitting there. That’s a lot of emissions in one space. When your neighborhood sits right above that, it’s a problem.”

Patrick Manning, representing Stillwater, addressed the City Council during its Aug. 20 meeting, pointing to a 6-acre buffer between residential and commercial zoning.

“As far as the residential impact, I think it’s pretty minimal,” Manning said.

Manning also said the ability for restaurants to provide drive-through access will benefit them as they navigate the “new normal” of COVID-19.

“Three seems arbitrary to me. Why three,” Manning said. “I would like to have the flexibility to give people. This isn’t the last we’re going to see of COVID-19, and people are hesitant about making them come in and sit down.”

Manning said the developer is receiving a lot of push back from restaurants if they cannot provide drive-through services.

Nearby residents of Boulder Springs Villas said on any given day of traffic congestion, accessing 1450 South and turning onto River Road can be problematic.

“I oppose the idea to increase the number of drive-through businesses allowed,” one resident wrote to the city. “I believe that more than one drive-through business would increase traffic excessively. Boulder Springs Villas’ residents already face long wait times to safely make it onto 1450 South.”

Although it’s not the city’s job, the resident continued, to promote a specific type of retail business. The resident advocated a large outdoor food court on the lot west of River Road to accommodate restaurants interested in such a development.

“Given the huge move toward outdoor dining and the nine months of incredible weather we have here in St. George, it seems like a golden opportunity awaiting a savvy entrepreneur,” they added.

Councilman Jimmie Hughes acknowledges it is a different world, especially for restaurants, thanks to the pandemic.

“Who would have thunk we would be in this position when you drive up to get everything,” he said. “When you see some of these places that don’t have a drive up, little mom-and-pop restaurants, they’ve been hit hard.”

Hughes added that restaurants with a drive-up window have eager customers lined up for food.

“They are killing it,” he said.

City staff is working with the developer to establish drive-through standards for the southern block with the potential of maintaining the status quo or scaling back the total number of drive-through access points.

“All we are asking for is to be treated like all other commercial properties in St. George,” Manning said. “We are not trying to create a problem. We just don’t want what is perceived as an artificial ceiling, but we would welcome working with city staff and anyone else.”

The issue is anticipated to be heard during the City Council’s Sept. 3 meeting.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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