Farmington Planning green lights Panera drive-through

Farmington Planning Commission members on Monday approved plans for a drive-through at the Panera Bread on Grand River, but with multiple conditions.

The retrofit will require the city to vacate a public alley on the property at 34635 Grand River. That space will accommodate drive-through and bypass lanes.

Panera drive through

While allowed in the restaurant’s C-2 zoning, the drive-through requires a Special Land Use permit and must meet five conditions for approval. A plan review by city consultants with OHM Advisors raised issues with “stacking” spaces, designated parking spots for drivers waiting for their food, and information about sound minimization, lighting, and utilities in the alley.

Lights, sound, Dumpster

Matt Diffin, representing Wixom-based civil engineering firm Diffin-Umlor Associates, said the issues raised would be addressed on a revised set of plans. He said the restaurant will have room for 10 vehicles lined up, and three parking spots will be designated for drive-through customers.

Diffin said lights will be shielded downward, and noise will be mitigated with landscaping and speaker volume controls.

“Our intent is to never have the volume be louder than two people talking in a parking lot,” he said.

The company will install a larger Dumpster that can also be used by the adjacent strip center, which currently has its unit in the alley so that garbage trucks can get to it, Diffin said.

Dueling drive-throughs 

A public hearing during the meeting drew just one neighborhood resident. Robert Kull, who lives on Whittaker, pointed out that the city recently approved plans for a free-standing Tropical Smoothie restaurant with a drive-through window located just across the street, in the World Wide Center.

In addition to the traffic from the drive-through – which company officials say will likely increase business by about 15 percent – Kull said cars exiting from Hitachi Automotive Systems across Grand River often queue up in the center turn lane, and Whittaker becomes a busy street during the school year, as a route to Longacre Elementary.

“There’s a lot going on (there) now,” he said.

Kull also felt that adding the drive-through, “which the neighborhood has never had, will turn this into an auto-oriented business… that’s not appropriate with the character of the neighborhood.”

Streamlined carry-out

Diffin said that the drive-through is designed to relieve pressure on the parking lot, which jams up at busy times during the day and leads to parking in the alley and on Whittaker. Customers will be able to order ahead on the Panera app and pick up their items, rather than having to park and go inside.

“We’re just trying to streamline the carry-out service, which is a large part of this business,” he said.

Commissioner Cathi Waun first introduced a motion to deny the request, which failed 3-4. Commissioner Geoff Perrot’s motion to approve the request, which included conditions based on the OHM report and resolving the alley vacation issue, passed with Waun and Commissioner Dan Westendorf, who supported Waun’s motion, opposed.

To view the report and plans, visit farmgov.com. 

Video of the meeting will be posted at farmgov.com/City-Services/Government/Agendas-and-Minutes/Planning/2019.aspx