The Waxahachie City Council faced a “whopper” of a decision Monday night, voting 4-1 to deny a request for a special use permit for a stand-alone Burger King restaurant.
The restaurant sought to open up a new location in the Waxahachie Towne Crossing shopping center in the 1700 block of U.S. Highway 77 along the frontage road.
Documents filed with the city said Burger King wanted to have a freestanding one-story restaurant of with a drive-thru that would total 3,010 square feet on 1.085 acres.
Representing the developer was Dallas Cothrum with Masterplan Texas. Cothrum told the council the issue the city has with the project is not a zoning issue but relates to the use on the site.
“Respectfully, I think that we are here to talk about a restaurant and a drive-thru,” he said. “We work at the tip of the spear for a lot of restaurants and anchors. I bring this up because, in the real world where I work, that sit-down dining would not work here. It has been proven that Burger King works well with an Academy.
“This is a very sophisticated operator and they are a private equity group,” he said. “They are committed to growth here and have 270 restaurants, of which 70 are Burger Kings. This is a well-capitalized group that can bring in an A-plus store.”
Cothrum noted that the previous stand-alone Burger King location at 503 N. U.S. Highway 77 failed for several reasons. The shopping center adjoining the site did well when it was developed in the 1980s through the early 2000s but then the retail started to leave and the restaurant’s business began to decline, he said, noting that Burger King corporate had recommended that the franchise operator move to a location with more traffic. That operator didn’t have the capital or succession plan to do so.
“We are here (with this project) because you have a really incredible dynamic growth and you have a good opportunity here,” he said. “People want to eat out more but they can’t afford it, so they choose casual or quick-service dining. That is where the growth is in the market.”
Cothrum cited a similar development at Northwest Highway at Abrams and Skillman streets in Dallas that is comparable to Waxahachie Towne Crossing. Developers initially had a plan for sit-down dining but ended up getting a Dunkin Donuts and a Chipotle.
Cothrum said the shopping center tried to bring sit-down dining to the location and reached out to several dozen restaurants, such as Chuy’s Tex-Mex, but were unsuccessful.
“The problem (with the new site) is that it is a discount center,” he said. “I would submit to you the likelihood of you getting a Dollar Store or an automotive-related use is much higher than getting a sit-down restaurant on one acre. Sit-down restaurants don’t go one acre in any community.
“I think that what we have here, a little bit at least, with staff is turning into a food Olympics and not really a land use case,” he said. “I guess that is OK but it seems like we have tried to do everything to meet your standards and your development code. We hope that is enough.”
Cothrum showed examples of what the interior of the restaurant would look like and said it would be the highest quality Burger King Corporate authorizes. He also said he was willing to do a developer agreement that would spell out materials used in the interior as well as the exterior.
Resident Kevin Ivy told the council that waiting for something else can be a mistake.
“Burger King is willing to build – and build a nice place,” he said. “It is not another nail salon, car wash or emergency room. … These guys are doing everything you are asking them to do.”
According to Burger King’s website, there are more than 13,000 of its restaurants worldwide, with many of them run as franchise operations. Combined, they serve more than 11 million people each day.
Documents in the city council packet noted the city staff recommendation to deny the project based not on use but on concerns about the location.
“Based on the projected growth of the surrounding area, staff believes there is a higher and better use of the property,” the documents read.
Planning and Zoning Commission documents from July 9 noted, “Staff believes that a casual dining restaurant, opposed to a quick service (fast food) restaurant, would be the best use for the property.”
The previous stand-alone Burger King at 503 N. U.S. Highway 77 closed in 2014. The building is now the second location for Rising Sun Hibachi Grill. Currently, Burger King operates a restaurant inside the Waxahachie Wamart at 1200 N. U.S. Highway 77.
Although city staff had recommended denial, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission gave its recommendation that the project be approved with a 4-3 vote at its July 9 meeting.
Monday night, council member Melissa Olson made the motion to approve the request for a special use permit for Burger King. The motion was not seconded and died on the floor.
Council member Chuck Beatty then moved to deny the request, which was seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Mary Lou Shipley.
The vote to deny was 4-1 with Olson voting in opposition.