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Sonic is back and this time they’ve sweetened the pot.
The Richmond Planning and Zoning Commission again approved the request by the owners of Sonic to rezone property located on the northeast corner of Spartan Drive and East Main Street from residential to commercial. The rezoning would clear the way for Sonic to move to that location.
The results were the same as the last time with only John Dickson voting against the rezoning.
Representative for Sonic, Scott Hamilton said Sonic has been in discussions with MoDOT since the restaurant’s application was denied by the city council two weeks ago. Hamilton said traffic studies have been done and the property has been engineered and approved.
Hamilton said Sonic has also agreed to purchase new traffic lights for the intersection of Spartan Drive and East Main Street where Sonic wants to relocate. Hamilton believes this will address many of the traffic issues that neighbors have with the relocation.
Neighbor Marsha Lacy said Sonic’s calculations that traffic will be calmed by the move are inaccurate according to their own statements.
“All these little studies that are being done and all of these comments that it won’t cause additional traffic are really not accurate because they anticipate a 50 percent increase in business,” Lacy said to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Lacy and other neighbors brought the same arguments about noise, trash, safety and the decline of property values. Lacy said the owners of Sonic are not even from Richmond and that the job of the commission is to protect Richmond property owner’s rights. She said she was confused by City Councilwoman Beverly Gorham’s argument for voting in favor of the change. Gorham said before the vote two weeks ago that she thought Sonic should go in a different place.
“You have a responsibility to protect our city and to protect our residents,” she said. “Not to degrade them.”
Hamilton said the neighbor’s issues with noise and trash should be dealt with through city ordinance. Lacy said that doesn’t work.
“If the city was serious in keeping down the noise, I wouldn’t have windows rattling at midnight,” she said. “The police do nothing about it. It goes on continually. I have no assurances that it is going to change.”
Resident and lawyer Alan Lacy reiterated to the commission that 40 years of Missouri Supreme Court case law goes against spot zoning. He agreed with the neighbors that there are an abundance of other properties more suitable for a commercial business like Sonic. Lacy said in the past he has asked for a variance in zoning so he could operate a business out of his home. He said he was denied because neighbors spoke out against it. Lacy wants to know why the commission doesn’t do the same.
“This is not a make it or break it for Sonic,” he said. “This is a matter of convenience.”
Hamilton and Commissioner Mike Harrison both said that the zoning is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan that was adopted in 1999.
One convenience for Sonic is property value. Property is available near Wal-Mart. Typically commercially zoned property in prime location costs considerably more than residential property.
Real estate broker Becky Treccariche with Reece & Nichols said property that is already zoned commercial can be hundreds of thousands of dollars more. She said property located in front of Wal-Mart is listed from $313,600 to more than $850,000. Lot sizes range from 1.6 acres to 4.37. The assessed value for the two lots on the northeast corner of Spartan Drive and East Main Street is less than $20,000.
City Administrator Rick Childers has said publicly many times publicly that the comprehensive plan is flawed and is not really a plan at all, but a good start. Many of the aspects of the comprehensive plan were also never enacted or addressed by the city. Currently, the city is working on a new comprehensive plan, although slowly and more precise.
Neighbor Rita May said that according to MoDOT figures she acquired, 68 cars on average go through Sonic in an hour. With Sonic’s projections, she says that number will increase.
The city council will vote on the issue tonight.