A developer wants to put a drive-thru coffee shop on Sunshine Street, and feedback on what he’s brewing is generally mixed.
On July 11, the Springfield City Council heard 19 speakers in a public hearing over two bills tied to a plan to put a 7 Brew Coffee location on the southeast corner of Sunshine Street and Jefferson Avenue. Ten of those speakers at the hearing were against the development, and nine spoke in its favor. The City Council will decide on both bills July 25.
Royce Reding, the owner of Reding Management, LLC, made two applications with the City of Springfield: a rezoning designation to allow the land to be used for a business, and a conditional use permit to have drive-thru service. To legally operate a drive-thru lane in Springfield, a business must obtain a conditional use permit from the city.
“We believe this is an appropriate use for an undeveloped corner of a primary arterial,” Reding wrote. “We also would like to point out that the lot has remained undeveloped under current zoning for nearly 40 years.”
The Springfield City Council received mixed recommendations for what to do. The Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission denied a rezoning request for the property on March 10. The City Council sent the rezoning request back to the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 4, after the developer modified the application to add 14 trees, seven evergreens and seven “understory trees,” to serve as a buffer between the business and the neighboring homes. Understory trees, by definition, are shorter trees that typically don’t grow taller than 50 feet of height.
The city employees who have worked with the request recommended the rezoning and permit for approval.
Why some residents don’t want it
Cody Hicks owns a house on Roanoke Avenue just south of the development site, and part of his property is inset into what would otherwise be a rectangle of Reding Management property.
“I’m not necessarily opposed to a business, but something that’s high impact like this — it’s not adding anything to the neighborhood,” Hicks said. “All I’m going to have is lights, music, cars honking; I mean, I get enough of that just living off Sunshine as it is.”
Hicks used mapping software to examine the locations of the three existing 7 Brew Coffee stores in Springfield.
“There’s already three 7 Brews within 5 miles of my property,” Hicks said. “Do we need another one?”
Sally Keane lives on Ottawa Court, the first cul-de-sac south of Sunshine Street on Roanoke Avenue, which is a north-south street east of Jefferson Avenue. She told the City Council she is concerned about negligent coffee lovers accidentally hitting a child walking to Sunshine Elementary School.
“I worry about the school kids. I worry about the noise level for the kids,” Keane said. “Roanoke Street is a very narrow street. We have ditches on both sides, and to try and get traffic out there and try to get traffic out on Sunshine Street is going to be a nightmare.”
Juliana Schultze also lives on Ottawa Court and is concerned with 7Brew’s use of loud music playing outdoors as part of its business model. She is also concerned about the franchisee’s goal of attracting at least 500 cars per day and operating from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on some days.
“Roanoke is a local roadway; it has no sidewalks,” Schultze said. “As soon as people come familiar with this, Roanoke is going to be the preferred exit. People will not want to challenge the cars coming and going in and queuing for the traffic light on Jefferson.”
The University Heights Neighborhood Association Board of Directors sent a letter to the City Council asking it to deny the rezoning and conditional use permit applications.
14 trees on the new application
Springfield Director of Planning and Development Susan Istenes talked the City Council through four key areas of Springfield’s law for “limited business” designation. The designation is for property that is next to residential property, has a use intended to serve people in the nearby residential area, functions as a transition between a residential area and a busier commercial area, and is located along a major arterial road, like Sunshine Street.
7 Brew Coffee represents the first phase of the development. In the second phase, Reding Management plans to knock down two houses on Sunshine Street and build some type of commercial building or buildings. In the second phase, the developer would build a driveway from the property onto Roanoke Avenue. There are no plans for the coffee shop to have a driveway on Sunshine Street.
Springfield ordinance allows a rezoning request or a permit request to be denied if the proposed use is found to have “a detritus impact on the health, safety and welfare of the public,” or if the use would cause “potentially adverse effects upon the community or other people within its vicinity.” By law, the procedure for finding these determinations is discretionary.
“In my opinion, I think the main concern with the planning commission really had to do with the drive-thru,” Istenes said. “Hours of operation were brought up quite a bit, and the amount of traffic that the specific use generates, because [7 Brew] is a popular place.”
The sole change Reding Management made to its rezoning and conditional use permit applications was to add the 14 trees along the south side of the property.
“Listening to the concerns of a few neighbors, we added additional landscaping and vegetation to provide an enhanced buffer between the limited business and the residential single family uses,” Reding wrote.
Coffee-fueled car catastrophe?
Councilman Abe McGull looked at the proposed driveway for 7 Brew, which would be built from an existing driveway off Jefferson Avenue about 150 feet south of the intersection of Sunshine and Jefferson. McGull is worried about cars going to and from the shop on that 150-foot stretch of street.
“That seems kind of small for that flow of business in there,” McGull said.
Noting Springfield’s “Chicken Strip,” a traffic snarl at Sunshine and South Campbell Avenue where a Raising Cane’s and a Chick-fil-A wage a saucy franchise war, and the “Pastry Pileup,” a place on South Campbell where Panera and Dunkin’ Donuts bake up hot-tempered delays many mornings, McGull worried aloud about the intersection of Sunshine and Jefferson.
“My experience with Springfieldians — they will block an intersection,” McGull said. “You know, people are supposed to not block an intersection for you to turn in; they will block it. So what you create then is a stacking up of those who want to turn left into this parking lot and they can’t get in.”
Councilwoman Heather Hardinger expressed concern for any children who might live in University Heights and cross five lanes of Sunshine Street to go to Sunshine Elementary.
“Are there any students that do walk? That’s my primary concern,” Hardinger said. “Not every student takes the bus because the school is right there, so I just see it as a potential safety concern.”
Builder’s allies speak up
7 Brew franchisee Brandon Sebald wrote a brief letter to the City Council about the number of people the coffee shop would employ, with three drive-thru lanes, ordering kiosks and employees taking orders from cars in the three lines.
“It is our intent to serve the community and our patrons by providing a safe, clean, and well-operated business while producing sales tax and creating 40-50 new jobs,” Sebald wrote.
Nine people spoke in support of the project at the City Council meeting July 11. Some identified themselves as associates of Reding.
Jared Enterprises developer Curtis Jared associated himself with the development group. Jared’s ties to Reding are established through Truth in Politics, a group that claims to have no special interests but paid for about $30,000 worth of attack ads in the spring elections for the Springfield Board of Education. Jared is the president of Truth in Politics, and he and Reding both serve as directors.
Jared told the City Council that concerns over traffic at the intersection of Sunshine and Jefferson would quell over time as the newness wears away at the 7 Brew Coffee store.
“You’re always going to have some trials and errors,” Jared said. “You’re going to have an influx of stuff. That’s the way it happens, but then it normalizes.”
Jared told the City Council that the kiosks used for ordering coffee at 7 Brew stores are manufactured in Springfield, which creates and keeps jobs in Springfield.
“If you don’t have a drive-thru in today’s world, now since the advent of COVID and everything, you’re going to have a hard time getting new retailers to come to the area if they cannot have a drive-thru,” Jared said. “That is just a fact.”
James Nevins owns a human resources firm with ties to Reding Management, and Nevins also donated $1,000 to a school board member who benefitted from the Truth in Politics ad campaign leading up to the April election. Nevins told the City Council he was “the quintessential passerby” who would potentially buy coffee at 7 Brew. He did not identify his association with Reding, but he did speak up on the danger of children crossing Sunshine Street to go to school.
“You are not supposed to walk and cross Sunshine,” Nevins said. “That is incredibly dangerous.”
The church elders at neighboring Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church expressed their support for the development.