Fayette County

Lexington board denies drive-through for downtown Starbucks

The vacant lot at 473 East Main Street is the site proposed for a new Starbucks.
The vacant lot at 473 East Main Street is the site proposed for a new Starbucks. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Lexington’s Board of Adjustment on Friday denied a drive-through for a proposed Starbucks on Main Street.

The board voted unanimously to deny the application by developers Southern Oak.

It was the fourth time a drive-through on the site has been nixed by a city planning body.

Developer Phil Greer, one of the principals of Southern Oak, previously said the site at 475 East Main Street would host a coffee shop and a retail store. David Royse, a lawyer for Greer, confirmed Friday that the tenant for the proposed coffee shop is Starbucks.

Starbucks has said it was not interested in the site unless it has a drive-through, Royse said.

Royse after Friday’s decision said his client is weighing whether to appeal the board’s decision in Fayette Circuit Court.

The Starbucks would be more than 2,000 square feet, with the retail space close to 4,000 square feet. Greer said he would like for the retail space to be “a high-end jewelry store, but it’s not a done deal.”

Cielito Lindo restaurant used to operate on the property, which is adjacent to Kerr Brothers funeral home. The funeral home opposed the drive-through, saying that people ordering drinks over loudspeakers would disrupt funeral services.

Additionally, if traffic backs up, people could start honking their horns, further disrupting services, funeral home officials said.

Jacob Walbourn, a lawyer who represents Kerr Brothers, said it’s 400 to 450 feet from a traffic signal at East Main Street and Midland Avenue; he noted that traffic from that light backs up to Kerr Brothers on most days.

The city’s planning staff recommended denial of the request for the drive-through.

Casey Kaucher of the division of traffic engineering said the department was concerned that traffic would stack up on East Main because of cars waiting to enter or exit the Starbucks lot. Although there are ways to restrict left turns onto East Main from the site, those often aren’t effective, Kaucher said.

Royse said that during the time Cielito Lindo was open — about five years — there was only one accident in front of the property, and no accidents occurred as a result of someone trying to cross traffic to turn left from the restaurant onto East Main.

Moreover, Royse said, the property could hold up to 15 cars waiting in line for the drive-through.

“A 15-car stacking may be the largest in Lexington,” Royse said. “The requirement under the ordinance is five.”

Greer has two Starbucks in Lexington, at 3939 Tates Creek Road and at 2703 Richmond Road.

Greer told the board Friday that neighbors in Bell Court had asked the property owners to try to put in a Starbucks. However, Councilman Jake Gibbs, who lives in Bell Court, said no one in Bell Court remembers telling Greer they wanted a Starbucks. Gibbs opposed the drive-through, saying there would be too many traffic problems.

Board of adjustment documents say the typical number of daily customers for the Main Street site would be 380. It would be open from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Cielito Lindo closed in 2011, and the building was later demolished. The building had been the subject of controversy in 1983, when area residents and then-Mayor Scotty Baesler opposed construction of a McDonald’s on that site. Baesler called McDonald’s actions “dastardly.”

McDonald’s got to build its restaurant, but without a drive-through. It renewed its request for a drive-through two other times without success.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall