RPB Zoners OK Taco Bell Plan For Old Checkers Site

The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday recommended approval of a major site plan modification to demolish the existing Checkers building at 1318 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. to build a new, 2,137-square-foot Taco Bell restaurant with a drive-through.

Site Plan Coordinator Kevin Erwin said the site sits on an outparcel within the Crossroads shopping plaza.

“The site has been vacant for a number of years,” Erwin said. “Restaurant with drive-through is listed as a special exception use within the general commercial zoning district. The applicant is also seeking approval for the building’s architecture, colors, signs and landscape plan.”

He said the application, by Cornelison Engineering & Design, meets all dimensional requirements of the village code, including the number of required parking spaces.

“In addition, drive-throughs require stacking and queuing spaces,” he said. “A total of seven queuing spaces is required. Seven spaces have been provided. There was some concern by our village engineer for a potential for queuing to stack out into Royal Palm Beach Blvd. There is a special condition of approval that if that happens within a 365-day period more than 10 times, remedial action will be taken by Taco Bell, up to and including closing the drive-through.”

Commissioner Joseph Boyle asked about the landscaping changes, and Erwin said the applicant is requesting infill landscaping to bring it up to the current code requirement.

“Through the years, there has been some tree and shrub attrition on the site. They’re just proposing to replace what’s missing out in the front buffer, as well as the hedge material, and then they’re going with a zeriscape-type pattern around the restaurant, around the Southwestern theme. It may not be 100 percent like the landscaping around them, but they’re trying to create the Southwestern theme for the restaurant. It’s within the code.”

Boyle also asked whether there is a color scheme for the shopping center, and Erwin said the established pattern for the shopping center is beige tones, but the outparcels do not have a color scheme, although the applicant’s theme is tan with a rust-colored roof. “The outparcels were treated a little bit differently than the rest of the center,” he said.

Boyle also asked about the village engineer’s recommendation for the queuing, and Erwin said the concern was that cars could stack into the road right of way and create an unsafe condition.

“The idea is to keep traffic on your site,” Erwin said. “You’re not supposed to be impacting the roadway with your use. We’ve had some incidents early in the morning with the Dunkin’ Donuts where the queuing does back out into Royal Palm Beach Blvd., and we’re keen to prevent that from happening again.”

Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said that the applicant has accepted a condition that it will close the drive-through if cars stack into the road consistently. “Taco Bell is interested in keeping their drive-through open,” Ashton said.

Erwin also pointed out that there is additional room on the site to provide for more stacking if that becomes necessary.

“It might affect their parking, but they probably have another six or seven queuing spaces at least before they would get out into the drive aisle of the shopping center,” he said.

Commissioner Michael Axelberd also expressed concerns about possible stacking into the roadway.

“You mentioned Dunkin’ Donuts, because I was going to mention Dunkin’ Donuts on Okeechobee that has huge spillover problems where it goes into the streets,” Axelberd said.

He pointed out that the McDonald’s restaurant in the shopping center, which is 500 feet away, spills traffic out into the driveway where people are walking across.

“It’s hazardous,” Axelberd said. “It looks great, but my concern is traffic spilling into the shopping center and people trying to rush and people trying to cross. I just want to make sure that it is properly addressed.”

Erwin said that was the reason for the condition.

“We realize that there is more than one drive-through in the area,” he said. “In fact, McDonald’s has an application pending. They are going to be doing some reconfiguring on their site. They are looking to do a double drive-through, which they have indicated to us would improve the service times. That may be something coming through for you guys to look at in the near future. We have considered that there may be the potential for synergies for both of those queues to impact each other.”

Commissioner Jackie Larson agreed with the concerns about stacking.

“I was on the board when the McDonald’s came through, and this board unanimously denied that application because of the way the drive-through was set up,” Larson said. “The concern was not only the stacking, but the activity of the Tires Plus, because they move around a lot of cars, too. Proportionally, that has proved to be a difficult area. The fact that they are coming in with a reconfiguration is a good idea.”

She recalled that Checkers went out of business shortly after McDonald’s opened, and the village did not have a lot of time where two drive-throughs were operating in that proximity, along with the Tires Plus. “I was very pleased to see the traffic flow on this site plan,” Larson said. “The traffic flow is much, much better than it was before.”

She was also glad to see the stacking condition. Ashton said it will be enforced by code enforcement if they start getting complaints. Craig Cornelison of Cornelison Engineering & Design said seven cars stacking is a lot in Taco Bell’s experience, and that they are prepared to increase that if it becomes necessary.

Larson also complimented the applicant on the landscaping plan. “I’m glad to see a little TLC on that site,” she said. “It has been abandoned a long time, and this is a good thing.”

Boyle made a motion to approve the request, which carried 5-0.