{ Development Roundup }


Taco Bell wants to rebuild

Border Foods’ request to rebuild the Taco Bell at 565 N. Snelling Ave. faces a possible vote of denial at the St. Paul Planning Commission Aug. 7. On July 24, the commission laid over a vote to give city staff more time to prepare a resolution spelling out the reasons to deny the project’s needed conditional use permit.

The commission’s Zoning Committee recommended denial on a 3-1 vote July 16.

Taco Bell has been closed since unrest in the community in May, when the restaurant was damaged. The building has been there since 1973 and has housed different restaurants. But it has a long and tangled history, with owner Border Foods seeking to rebuild the restaurant over the past five years without success.

All drive-through services in the city, be they for banks, coffee shops and restaurants, require conditional use permits. The permits regulate levels of noise from speaker boxes, and business operating and design conditions.

The Taco Bell has been controversial with its early-morning window hours, rowdy patron behavior, noise and neighborhood disruption. Hamline Midway Coalition recommended against the permit, indicating that shorter hours should go into place if it is approved. Several neighbors also objected.

Some objections center on inconsistency with neighborhood plans and the site’s underlying zoning, which is for traditional neighborhoods mixed-use. The site was rezoned several years ago as part of a larger neighborhood-wide rezoning.

City staff recommended approval, based on changes to the drive-through lane location 61 feet away from the nearest home. City staff had recommended denial of past plans.

With approval, city staff had recommended three conditions. Drive-through operations would cease no later than 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and no later than 2 a.m. Monday through Friday. Speaker box sounds from the drive-through lane would not be plainly audible so as to unreasonably disturb the peace and quiet of abutting residential property. Final plans approved by the zoning administrator for this use would be in substantial compliance with the plan submitted and approved as part of this permit

Barry Zelickson of Border Foods told the Zoning Committee that the restaurant owners are willing to make site changes, such as working on a fence between the restaurant and neighboring properties. He and attorney Brian Alton noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need for the drive-through service, to deliver food safely to customers.

But a majority of zoning committee members opposed the conditional use permit, recommending denial on a 3-1 vote.

One issue committee members raised is Taco Bell’s proximity to the Kimball Court supportive housing development, and how residents there would be impacted by noise. They also cited inconsistence with the underlying zoning. Traditional neighborhoods zoning is meant to deter auto-oriented uses. The current building is 1,834 gross square feet, and the proposed building is 1,847 gross square feet. There would be reduction in off-street parking spaces, from 28 to 17, and fewer curb cuts.


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