Sunday, February 1, 2015
The Taco Bell restaurant, proposed for the Broad Street Road corridor just west of McDonald’s in Centerville, is a step closer to reality.
At a follow-up meeting of the county’s Design Review Committee on January 27, significant modifications to the initially submitted site and building plans were deemed to comply with overlay district standards.
The DRC is comprised of chair Paul Costello, Stu Doetzer, and Janice Brooks, who were appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
A public hearing before the Board of Supervisors vote on a Conditional Use application, required for drive-through restaurants, could take place in March 3.
Modifications included more and larger bushes in the buffer around the site to improve screening; landscaped islands to break up parking; and changes to the building exterior. Stone accents will be used to relieve long side walls. Natural colored, rather than white, river rock will be placed around the base of the building, for visual appeal and to deter fires that caused by cigarettes being tossed onto mulch.
Perhaps the strongest point of contention—metal slats over lit purple bricks on a significant portion of the front of the building—was addressed to the satisfaction of the DRC. Instead, three metal slats expose a few courses of purple brick, which will be illuminated by a white light to subtlety suggest Taco Bell’s signature “purple glow.”
Centerville’s overlay design standards encourage use of earth tones to harmonize new construction. Modifying the color restrictions to a maximum percentage of the area of each side of a new building to display “branding” colors or patterns could be useful. This would be an objective standard, yet flexible enough to accommodate chain enterprises and avoid a bland, boring sameness in new construction. A hint of the “branding” color or pattern should be adequate for customer recognition.
Windows of the proposed Taco Bell will be tinted and have mullions, to give the building a more residential look and discourage obscuring them with promotional flyers. In response to Costello, Planner Jo Ann Hunter explained that county code limits covering of windows to 50 percent of the glass.
Costello said that the changes were good.
Doetzer, who brings expertise with landscaping and design matters to his seat on the DRC, recommended changes to some of the specified plant material. Stuart Little, representing Burger Busters, the Taco Bell franchisee, contended that the overlay specifications about the size of plant material is vague and confusing. He wondered if “three feet” refers to height, circumference, and size at planting or maturity, which could have a significant impact on cost.
The DRC suggested that the freestanding sign between Broad Street Road and the proposed building be mounted on a brick background similar to the McDonald’s sign on the adjacent parcel.
While the option of free standing signs does not fall under the purview of the DRC—they are permitted by code—they encourage visual clutter at eye level, which seems counter to the purpose of the overlay standards. Do passing motorists really need another sign to recognize a business close to the road in plain sight?
Proposed lighting meets the “dark sky” requirements; as Taco Bell plans to deploy less intense lighting fixtures than those used by McDonald’s, there could be a difference in the appearance of the illumination. Staff will address the issue.
Given the height and brightness of the lighting at Food Lion, which backlights the other properties on the north side of Broad Street Road, quibbling about the difference in lighting fixtures seems excessively punitive for new businesses.
Overall, the DRC did a good job of fairly enforcing the overlay standards. This is another example of the value of citizen engagement in local government.