The City Plan Commission voted 6-5 to remove deed restrictions that would allow a Whataburger to operate a restaurant and drive-thru at Arboretum Village near the 3G intersection.
District 9 Plan Commissioner Michael Jung made the motion to follow staff recommendations and approve the request at Thursday’s meeting. It was on the agenda after commissioners voted unanimously at the May 6 meeting to hold the item for further discussion.
Whataburger plans to build on the empty patch of grass between Tom Thumb and Gaston Avenue. In late March, Masterplan, the zoning consultant representing Whataburger, filed a zoning change application to remove deed restrictions that prohibited a drive-thru. The restriction had been in place since the 1970s, when the property was a Texas Instruments location.
Masterplan submitted a revised site plan with an additional entrance and exit farther north on Gaston Avenue to keep traffic from backing up on the street. Customers’ increasing use of curbside pickup would also relieve pressure on the dual-lane drive-thru, Masterplan CEO Dallas Cothrum said.
“I did not expect to support this case when it was first filed, but I think the impact will be relatively minimal,” Jung said. “The additional traffic volume that this use will bring can be accommodated, according to our staff and the applicant’s traffic consultant. Traffic circulation concerns are derived from existing conditions. Once 3G is redone, traffic will be proceeding at a much slower speed. I’m confident that with revisions to the site plan, we won’t have traffic spilling out, and congestion at the site will be minimal.”
Commissioners in adjacent neighborhoods disagreed. Joanna Hampton from District 2 and Wayne Garcia from District 14 expressed concern about the 24/7 drive-thru operating in such close proximity to residential neighborhoods. Six commissioners voted in favor, five against and three were absent. The District 10 seat is vacant.
Four neighbors spoke in opposition.
“This residential location is the wrong spot for the beloved burger joint,” said neighbor Leslie Hearn, who led the opposition against The Trailhead development at the former The Lot and Local Traveler sites. “The 24/7 nature of the drive-thru and noise and traffic will be a mistake.”
Jung said: “The people in this neighborhood have been burned by the presence of nightclubs that used to operate at this location, but those are gone and this area is not near a major alcohol-fueled entertainment zone. I’m concerned about trash, but frankly, most people inclined to litter will do so. The lake doesn’t care if you throw down a McDonald’s cup or a Whataburger cup.”
The City Council will review the item at its Aug. 11 meeting. If approved, Whataburger plans to open the location in spring 2022.
Sam Gillespie contributed to this report.