The zoning file would have added California-based Dave’s Hot Chicken to the development. It was slated to occupy a 2,800-square-foot building near the corner of James Drive and the Central Expressway service road. (Courtesy Hermansen Land Development)

An application to allow a drive-thru restaurant in the Richardson Restaurant Park was rejected by City Council after several hours of public comment and discussion.The zoning file would have added California-based Dave’s Hot Chicken to the development. It was slated to occupy a 2,800-square-foot building near the corner of James Drive and the Central Expressway service road.

“Dave’s is a fast-casual concept much like OMG Tacos and Dog Haus Biergarten,” said Kirk Hermansen, owner and developer of the restaurant park with Hermansen Land Development, at the July 12 council meeting. “This concept is very similar but with a drive-thru component.”

Council approved a zoning change for the development in December that allows Hermansen to build two additional restaurants on the property—one of which would have housed Dave’s—and to expand the size of outdoor dining areas.

After a lengthy debate in December about the state of dining in a post-COVID society, council approved drive-thru lanes for prepaid order pickups only; however, Hermansen’s special permit application requested a conventional drive-thru and menu board for Dave’s.

Despite the fact that more than half of sales were expected to be generated in-house, franchise operator Ernest Crawford said the 14-car queueing lanes were “critical” to the business’ success.

Council Member Jennifer Justice said most Dave’s locations in California do not have drive-thrus and questioned why that service was necessary in Richardson. A Dave’s near Preston and Belt Line roads in Dallas does include a drive-thru.

“Dave’s Hot Chicken has shown it can be a model that doesn’t require a drive-thru, it has already been successful and thriving without it ... so I have concerns that council already provided the compromise that was being sought here, and we are sort of trying to take another bite of the apple,” Justice said.

Six members of the public spoke against the application, citing concerns such as safety and health hazards caused by exhaust fumes from idling cars. Nearby resident Sarah Gipson said the addition of Dave’s felt incongruous with the initial plan for the site.

“My neighbors and I have repeatedly stated that we want a pedestrian friendly, bike friendly [development]. ... Adding a drive-thru lane with a menu board is completely antithetical to that vision,” she said. “It’s accommodating cars; it’s not accommodating pedestrians or bikes.”

Approval of the special permit relegates the site to a specific type of user, nearby resident Andrew Laska said.

“It doesn’t matter how good the franchisee is; it’s not about restaurant trends; it’s not about picking winners or losers,” he said. “This is a land use issue. ... The land is now being taken exclusively for the use of automobiles.”

The addition of Dave’s would have been the “first domino to fall” in a series of planned openings in the restaurant park, Hermansen said. Financing for Dave’s is tied to development of the second restaurant pad approved in December among other projects, he said.

“We have other local concepts that we are talking to. ... We also have planned improvements for the plaza, all of which are rolled into the financing of this expansion,” he said.

The expansion is also connected to the future opening of another Eiland Coffee Roasters location within the development.

“I’m concerned that after all these years if it doesn’t get approved, what could happen there?” said Manasseh Durkin, president of Durkin Properties LLC, which owns the site where Eiland would be located. Durkin was among six speakers in favor of the special permit.

Several council members said they appreciated the unified vision for the development sought by Hermansen, Durkin and Clay Eiland, owner of Eiland Coffee Roasters.

“I know a drive-thru window was not what we wanted. Three years ago it’s not what I would have wanted,” Council Member Bob Dubey said. “But when I see what they are trying to do and trying to accomplish, it makes a lot of sense.”

A high-end user like Dave’s is a good fit for the site, even if it includes a drive-thru, Mayor Paul Voelker said.

“The reality is that we need this to be a destination,” Voelker said. “We need there to be variety, and we need others to see this vision.”

Rejection of the zoning file and ordinance was ultimately approved by council in a 4-3 vote, with Dubey, Voelker and Mayor Pro Tem Janet DePuy opposed.