Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 21, 2023, after Scooter’s decided to not pursue the property, according to developers.
Lexington city officials approved a zone change for a drive-thru coffee shop Tuesday despite a city planning commission vote to turn down the application in January.
Developers at 2400 Versailles Road requested a zone change from a B-1 zone to a B-3 zone for a small, drive-thru coffee shop near the intersection of Versailles and Parkers Mill. There is a Starbucks next to the property.
The Urban County Planning Commission voted 5-3 in January to deny the application for the zone change.
The developers then asked the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to re-hear the case. The council voted unanimously Tuesday to reverse the commission’s denial of the zone change. The council can choose to vote on the zone change with or without a public hearing.
The original plan was for a Scooter’s Coffee drive-thru to build at the location.
However, real estate agents for the property said Thursday that Scooter’s dropped out of the project due to the length of time it took to get the zone change approved.
“The site is very much available to any user,” said Jason Taylor, vice president of Asset Management, Brokerage and Leasing.
Drive-thru coffee kiosks have struggled in recent months to get city approval.
Dutch Bros, an Oregon-based coffee drive-thru, was also denied approval for two different locations, one on South Limestone and a second on South Broadway.
Dutch Bros lawyers have said they plan to ask the council for a full hearing on those zone change denials.
At issue with many coffee drive-thrus is the amount of traffic coming into and out of the property and the number of cars that can wait in line on the property and off the street, called “stacking.”
Other coffee shops in Lexington without adequate stacking on the property, including a Starbucks on South Broadway near the University of Kentucky campus, can lead to cars waiting in line on the street, causing traffic back ups.
All traffic into the proposed coffee shop would enter on Versailles Road.
Traci Wade, planner manager for the city, said the site is currently vacant. In 2016, it was re-zoned from a residential to a B-1 zone. The conditional zoning restrictions put in place at that time restricted drive-thru facilities on the site.
Wade said a traffic study showed that a left-turn out of the property, which would have to cross two lanes of traffic, would be difficult.
During the planning commission’s hearing, residents near the area raised concerns that the double drive-thru would create a lot of traffic confusion and back-ups, Wade said.
The developer has agreed to not allow left-turns out of the property, Wade said.
Branden Gross, a lawyer for Caller Properties, the developer, said the site was ideal for the double drive-thru.
A traffic engineer hired by the developers showed the drive-thru would create limited new traffic to the area.
“You are not going to see a major impact,” said Clay Johnson, the traffic engineer. “The building is too small. It’s too small to generate a major impact on Versailles Road.”
Gross asked the council to remove the 2016 restriction that does not allow drive-thrus at the location.
Paula Singer, a nearby property owner, said the restrictions should remain.
Singer said the city has spent millions improving the area for pedestrians, including adding sidewalks on Versailles Road. The goal is to create a more walkable neighborhood.
“Versailles Road is no longer a highway serving commuters,” Singer said.
Other neighbors said many drive-thru fast-food restaurants have failed in that area because traffic on that road makes getting in and out of businesses tricky.
There is room on the property for 20 cars to wait in line, Gross said.
“There is no chance of traffic backing out of this property,” Gross said.
The council ultimately voted unanimously to approve the zone change and allow the coffee shop to move forward.
This story was originally published April 19, 2023, 10:07 AM.