Will continue discussion at Sept. 11 meeting
By Paige Kieffer
The Shorewood City Council has delayed voting on a conditional use permit for a Starbucks coffee shop until the next meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 11.
At the Aug. 28 council meeting, city officials agreed to hold back on voting on the project after council members expressed concerns about a lack of clarity, data and collaboration with others who may be effected by the project.
Dave Watson, of Watson Vinehill LLC., submitted the conditional use permit application.
The proposed Starbucks would sit on a 0.84-acre area on 19245 and 19285 Highway 7, on the corner of Vine Hill Road and Delton Avenue. The area is currently zoned for commercial use, and two office buildings sit on the properties.
The Starbucks would be a 2,325-square-foot, one-story shop with a drive-thru window and a 400 square foot patio area. The drive-thru window could accommodate about 12 cars at a time on the property, with the entrance starting on Delton Avenue and wrapping around the building to the southern end of the property.
There would be entrance and exits on Delton Avenue and Vine Hill Road. There would also be 26 parking spaces on the property.
The Shorewood Planning Commission voted unanimously in May to not approve the conditional use permit because of traffic concerns.
“These two parcels and the surrounding land uses were developed prior to the existence of the current configuration of the (Delton Avenue),” said Marie Darling, planning director. “The frontage road (Delton Avenue) was retrofitted several years ago in order to accommodate increasing traffic on Highway 7 and on this Delton Avenue and the adjacent side streets. It does include problematic curves coming into this area. It narrows right of ways and has challenging intersection geometrics with a very sharp curve off of the service road.”
The intersection of Vine Hill Road and Delton Avenue currently has a failing road rating. The state Department of Transportation is adding right-hand turn lanes on Vine Hill Road to Highway 7 to make the intersection safer.
Local residents also reiterated that the intersection is very dangerous and a heavy flow of traffic is continuous throughout the day on Delton Avenue, primarily from Minnetonka High School.
A petition, signed by more than 75 residents, advised the council to deny the project due to traffic concerns.
“Mr. Watson you’re continuously trying to push this project at us,” local resident Rose DeSanto said to the developer. “It’s a very dangerous intersection. … It’s only going to get worse. … We don’t need more coffee shops … at the expense of our safety.”
DeSanto said that the intersection is very dangerous with many cars blowing through stop signs and speeding down Delton Avenue. Many of these drivers are, allegedly, Minnetonka High School students.
“Most of us moved into the area of Minnetonka High School when it was just a high school,” said David Syme, a resident of Minnetonka who lives near the Shorewood border. “As was pointed out, it has now changed into an entertainment complex and we see traffic at very high levels for 18 hours a day depending on the season and activities. There is a genuine traffic concern.”
Syme stressed that the City of Shorewood should open up communications with the City of Minnetonka and the Minnetonka School District to gather data and address any traffic concerns. He said, “It was an oversight not to have them involved.”
The Shorewood council members were also concerned why the city and the school district weren’t delegated to by the city or the developer.
“I find it interesting that none of us are talking about the census at the school or the number of enrollment … to me that’s the problem,” said Councilmember Debbie Siakel.
Councilmember Jennifer Labadie questioned how much traffic the Starbucks would generate, believing it would primarily be high school students, many of them carpooling, adding to the length of the drive-thru window.
The planning commission suggested that the developer take these steps to fix traffic concerns:
-Adding a right-turn lane into the site driveway from eastbound Delton Avenue. This addition would allow the traffic entering the site to leave the eastbound queued traffic that is waiting to pass through the intersection at Delton Avenue and Vine Hill Road.
-Adding a bypass lane on the westbound of Delton Avenue at the site driveway. This addition would allow westbound traffic to pass by cars queued to turn left to enter the site.
-Modifying the northbound segment of the intersection of Delton Avenue and Vine Hill Road to include a dedicated right-turn lane instead of the current wide single lane for all northbound traffic. This modification would accommodate the additional traffic that is expected to exit the property on Vine Hill Road before continuing back to Delton Avenue to complete their journey.
Watson agreed to these traffic suggestions, except adding a bypass lane on Delton Avenue to accommodate left-hand lane turns into the Starbucks property, due to limited space and the already close proximity to Highway 7. Instead he suggested having a no left-hand turns sign during their peak morning hours.
Watson said that based on the traffic study, the project would add an additional 13 cars to the 900 cars that are on Delton Avenue and Vine Hill Road during the peak morning hours. The vehicles making left-hand turns going westbound on Delton Avenue would only increase by four cars, he said.
He said that the project would have a very minimal impact on traffic in that area.
Starbucks Senior Store Development Manager Julie Wolleat said that the company is open to addressing any concerns while also reassuring the council that previous studies have allowed them to have an optimal site plan.
“We really strive to be a part of the community and strive to be a neighborhood gathering spot,” she said. “We’ve gotten better over the years with site design. We have built over 30 stores in the past few years and we’ve learned what makes a good site and how to circulate that site.”
Siakel said she felt conflicted about denying the conditional use permit.
“In my opinion it comes back to the fact if it’s zoned, they can put a coffee shop there, do they meet the requirements for a conditional use permit for a drive-thru, and they do,” she said. “I’m struggling to find a reason why they wouldn’t. It’s not that the opinion or the thoughts of the neighborhood aren’t important, but it’s back to what we can do as a city and what we can’t. I’m struggling to understand what grounds would we deny them on and the high school isn’t their problem.”
Mayor Scott Zerby expressed disappointment that the developer provided a lot of the site project details at the last minute, giving the council little time to review.
He said, “There is a lot of information coming here tonight and I’m not very comfortable making a decision without having the planning review take a look at it again, analyze it and see how it effects their decisions.”
Councilmember Kristine Sundberg opposed sending the Starbucks conditional use permit application back to the planning commission.
Instead she suggested that the city council and staff members work on gathering all the data and reviewing all the information again and then voting on it at the Sept. 11 meeting.
She said, “I don’t think there is any value in delaying this.”
Councilmember Patrick Johnson also expressed a desire to collaborate with the City of Minnetonka and Labadie said the same should be done with the Minnetonka School District.
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