Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sonic seeks property rezoning for new restaurant

R.D. HOHENFELDT
Managing Editor

Rolla City Council Monday night will hear the first reading of an ordinance to rezone three lots and half of another, all between Faulkner and Rucker Avenues mid-block between Black Street and Highway 72.
Owners of Sonic have asked for the rezoning from C-1 (neighborhood business district) to C-3 (highway commercial district) zoning.
In addition, the Sonic owners have asked for a portion of Faulkner Avenue to be vacated, so the three lots in the area to be rezoned can be joined to lots between Faulkner Avenue and Bishop Avenue (U.S. 63), to make way for a new and expanded Sonic restaurant.
“The current Sonic would be closed,” Michael Calkins, a part-owner of the local Sonic franchise, told The Ozarks Chronicle/Ozarks Almanac after the Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday afternoon. “We plan on more parking bays, a drive-through and a playground.”
Calkins said the plan is to make the restaurant a “destination spot.” He said the expanded restaurant would, for instance, be a place to hold children’s birthday parties.
Asked if there is a timeline for the project, Calkins said, “It all depends on what happens next.”
What happens next will be decided by the Rolla City Council on the rezoning and the street vacating. That will likely take at least two council meetings.
The council will take up the commission’s approval of the rezoning request at the Monday night meeting, but council policy is to hear only the first reading (except in emergency situations) to give the public time to hear about impending ordinance changes and offer opinions to their ward councilmen. That means final reading and a vote on the rezoning change won’t take place until the meeting on the first Monday night in August.
There will be a public hearing on the rezoning change at the Monday night meeting. It is likely that the public hearing at the council meeting will be a lot like the public hearing at the commission meeting, with neighbors offering no opposition to the rezoning but questioning the need and the fairness of the vacating of the street.
City Codes Enforcement Officer Steve Flowers presented the requests to the commission, a task that usually fell to the community development director. John Petersen retired from that position at the end of June, so Flowers will fill in until a successor is hired.
Flowers noted that D.L. Rogers Corp., of  Grapevine, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex,  was the primary applicant for the rezoning and the vacating.of the street.
The legal description of the area to be rezoned is Lots 3, 5 and 6 of Block 7 of Cowan’s Addition and the west half of Lot 4 of Block 7 of Cowan’s Addition.
Flowers said there are some buildings on those lots currently; they will be demolished. He said the vacating of the street will not include placing a curb across the street. The Rolla Fire and Rescue Department has asked that no curb or obstruction be placed there that would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to enter.
The site consists of 0.88 acre, excluding the street right-of-way that could be vacated. That is 34,397 square feet. The main building will be 1,817 square feet, There will be a 256 detached storage building. The rest of the property will hold landscaped areas, 57 parking spaces, a 1,500-square-foot playground and a 2,250-square-foot volleyball court, according to the current site plan.
There was no opposition to the rezoning from the audience during the public hearing. Some members of the audience asked about expanding the rezoning to all the lots between Faulkner and Rucker avenues on the west and east and Black Street and Missouri 72 on the north and south.
Flowers explained that the people with a vested interest in the other lots had not applied for the rezoning, and commission Chairman Don Brown briefly outlined the procedure obtaining a rezoning.
What concerns a couple of the neighbors is the closing of that short section of Faulkner Avenue. Tom Lin and Sundra Lin, owners of a lot between the property in question on the south and Zane’s Tires on the north, both spoke to the commission.
They explained that they plan on building a business on their lot, which fronts Bishop Avenue and has Faulkner Avenue on its other side. Tom Lin noted that customers of whatever business they build will have to turn north only, going to Black Street if the Sonic vacating is granted. If that request is not given, customers could turn south and go to Missouri 72 (where they would have to turn west only, due to an esplanade dividing the traffic.
Sundra Lin questioned the fairness of closing the street, noting that leaving the street open will help all of the driving public while closing it will help only the owner of the property, the Sonic franchisees.
Commissioner William Lindgren asked Flowers if the city would be reimbursed by Sonic for vacating the public right-of-way. Commission Chairman Brown interjected that he remembered no remuneration for any vacating of any street.
Lindgren said that it was his opinion the commission should go ahead and follow Flowers’s recommendation that they approve the vacating of the street to “put it in a larger forum.” That is what they did with only Commissioner Monte Shields voting against the approval.
Approval by the commission, an advisory body, is actually a recommendation that the council approve the measure.

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