RPB Zoners Hear Concerns About New Starbucks At Village Center

Royal Palm Beach’s Planning & Zoning Commission spent much of its Tuesday, Feb. 28 meeting discussing a planned new Starbucks location at 11710 Okeechobee Blvd., just west of Royal Palm Beach Blvd., on a vacant commercial lot near the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center and the Royal Palm Beach library.

Aside from three requests from the developer, the commissioners also heard a number of comments and concerns from the public about the project. The items before the commissioners included a landscape waiver and a site plan modification, but the most significant discussion was about a request to reduce the amount of parking to allow for a drive-through lane.

Insite Studio, on behalf of Starbucks at Village Center developer Investment Equity Group III LLC, requested a parking variance to provide 17 parking spaces at the site, where the village code requires 42 — a variance of 25 spaces.

To provide some history on the overall site, village planners said that a previous variance was approved in 2020 to reduce the required parking space at the plaza from 149 down to 143 spaces, making the overall village code parking deficit, should the variance be approved, 31 spaces. Village staff recommended denying the parking variance.

Insite Studio’s Brian Terry was on hand with data and a parking study conducted to support the request for the currently undeveloped plot of land that was originally planned to be a bank.

“I know the number 25 sounds like a large number in the context of 42 required spaces,” Terry said. “We removed some of the spaces to allow for adequate stacking for the Starbucks. It is all still connected, not creating any impediments. There is an existing turn lane [into the space] from Okeechobee Blvd. We relocated some dumpsters, but really keeping the context and connectivity across the entire property.”

Terry noted that the Village of Royal Palm Beach’s parking requirements exceed any other municipality in the area, and also does not take into account that coffee shops do not typically need the same number of spaces as a fast-food restaurant would use. He then went into details about the uses for parking by other tenants.

“For the medical office, we need 116 spaces. There was a variance approved, so the medical office is required to have 110 spaces. The financial institution on the south end is approved, but unbuilt, would require 17, and what we are proposing is… 17 spaces for the Starbucks,” Terry said. “We are not taking away any parking expectation from any other tenants in the complex.”

Brian Kelley, a professional engineer with Simmons & White, conducted a detailed parking study that addressed the customer uses for the parking, including time of day.

“Weekend is when coffee shops are busiest, but banks and medical offices are empty. We looked at time of day, with 7 to 8 a.m. peak utilization, medical is 10 to 11 a.m. Also, coffee shops experience more drive-through than dine-in, compared to typical fast food,” Kelley said. “The study is for all three businesses based on peak time, and we expect a surplus of 49 spaces on weekdays.”

However, Thomas Traino, who owns the Denny’s restaurant directly adjacent to the incoming Starbucks, disagreed.

“I own the land. I own the building,” said Traino, who purchased his property from the village in the mid-1990s. “If you see the layout, they are going to cut through my parking lot. Now, my people cannot park their cars because there is going to be a long line. If they are coming through Okeechobee Blvd., they are going to back up on Okeechobee. When I bought it, the master deed states there would be no drive-through, no gas station put in. My spaces are closer than the Starbucks spaces, so people will take those, too. I’m against the parking variance.”

Village Attorney Mitty Barnard explained that the Royal Palm Beach Village Council modified the agreement to include cross-parking agreements and were within their power to do so. The cross-access requirement is intended to keep the entire lot connected and easy to navigate.

“I do understand the concern of the gentleman at the Denny’s, because you guys’ rush hours are going to be approximately the same time in the morning,” Commission Chair David Leland said. “I’ve been really torn about this in looking at it. But I tell you, I have to agree with staff that I just don’t think it’s a great idea.”

Local resident Roger Livingston echoed the concerns.

“They have the photo here with the six cars in the drive-through. But I have a Starbucks by my house that’s 15 to 20 cars deep in their drive-through,” said Livingston, who believes that the Okeechobee entrance, while most convenient, will often be blocked. “That’s my first concern. My second is exiting. When they come out behind Civic Center Way there, they are not going to want to turn and get back on Okeechobee from Royal Palm Beach Blvd. because it’s hard to get across. I’m worried for the safety of people and kids.”

When motions to both approve and deny the parking variance failed with a tie, the applicant was given the option of postponing the decision. But Terry said that due to contractual obligations, a decision was needed immediately.

After extensive discussion and feedback from Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien, the committee opted to approve the variance request with several special conditions. The applicant must work with village staff to reduce the variance request. This could be done by removing outdoor seating and other changes. The final decision will be left up to the council when they hear the variance request.

The second Starbucks request was for landscape waivers to allow two islands that house dumpsters for the incoming coffee shop. The three-foot and eight-foot waivers had the support of village staff and were approved unanimously.

The final request for the site plan modification was also approved with site-specific conditions focusing on safety. If more than 10 incidents occur within a 365-day period, the drive-through will close until Starbucks addresses the issue. Incidents in the first 30 days are not included.

The applicant will also need to address any stacking issues should they begin to occur at the entrance from Okeechobee. The motion passed with an additional condition to address stacking if it causes issues for the Denny’s restaurant next door.

In other business:

• Applicant Michael Bahrami received approval to paint the Ponce De Leon Office Park building’s exterior. The property is located at 11337 Okeechobee Blvd.

• Extra Space Storage, located at 10200 Fox Trail Road South, received approval to update an existing monument sign and install a new wall sign.

• Meeting as the Local Planning Agency, the commissioners reviewed two ordinances designed to clarify existing village codes.

One ordinance specifically addresses sheds and identifies such structures as exceeding eight feet in height and more than 150 square feet. Some residents are using structures that were never intended to be used in residential areas.

“This was driven at the request of Community Development Director Robert Hill, with regard to accessory structures. People are getting creative,” Barnard explained. “What is a shed versus a non-shed? What is a detached garage? Our code was not clear. Controlling the aesthetic is a little more difficult. It is to address things that are happening in the village.”

The second ordinance addresses vehicles parking in publicly owned spaces and rights-of-way. Vehicles are not allowed to park in swale areas or the rights-of-way. The code will clarify that there will be penalties for parking in publicly owned vacant lots, swales and rights-of-way, including diagonal parking. This does not impact private roads or HOA-monitored roads, such as those in gated communities.

Both ordinances were approved unanimously.