ZBA denies drive-thru at proposed Bunting House-site Wendy’s, appeal likely

 It was a packed house at an October community meeting held to discuss the Wendy's proposal. (NewsWorks, file art)

It was a packed house at an October community meeting held to discuss the Wendy's proposal. (NewsWorks, file art)

After nearly a year of community based action, the Zoning Board of Adjustment has made their decision: Wendy’s can come to Roxborough, but without a drive-thru.

According to attorneys associated with the case, the ZBA has issued a split-decision with regard to a proposal to place a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant at the corner of Ridge and Roxborough avenues. A take-out restaurant was approved for the site, but a drive-thru window did not receive sanction from the city.

At both community meetings, and in sworn testimony to the ZBA, representatives of Wendy’s said that the drive-thru window was a key ingredient to the proposed restaurant’s business model. They expected that up to 75-percent of their business would consist of impulse drive-thru purchases.

A special exception – akin to a variance – was needed from the ZBA in order for the drive-thru window to be approved.

The ZBA signed off on its decision on Tuesday.

What the developers’ attorney is saying

Carl Primavera, a Philadelphia-based attorney who represented developers Anthony and Frank Giovannone in their bid to install the restaurant, said that the decision would likely be appealed.

“It’s an essential element of the experience,” he said of the drive-thru window, explaining that it was important both to operations and marketing initiatives, and to keep with similar Wendy’s restaurant locations.

While Primavera said that appreciated “to some extent” that the ZBA saw a fast-food restaurant as being appropriate for the site, he said that his clients believe they are entitled to have the drive-thru feature.

“Without a drive-thru, [the restaurant] doesn’t really make sense,” he said.

His clients have 30 days to register an appeal.

Community group feedback

Hal Schirmer, attorney for the Central Roxborough Civic Association, which led efforts to prevent the restaurant from opening, was pleased with the ZBA’s decision.

“It’s good to see a reasoned decision, and that the ZBA took the time to read over the documentation in the case,” he said.

In recent days, Schirmer had taken to scoping the Licenses and Inspections website in order to find out about the ruling.

When he found the decision, he notified CRCA officials, who he said expressed surprise that they successfully opposed a large corporation.

While community members could still file their own appeal to the decision to approve take-out at the site, Schirmer doubted that anyone would.

While pleased with the decision, Schirmer saw it as an opportunity to encourage the installation of businesses more appropriate to the Ridge Ave. business corridor, recalling that a four-story mixed-use building still has approval to go in at the site, which was once home to a historic house.

“Good development comes from bad ideas,” he said.

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