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Sunday, August 18,2013

Texas Roadhouse continues to move through planning process

By David DeWitt
Photo Credits: File photo.
Photo Caption: This site may soon be home to a Texas Roadhouse restaurant.

A consultant representing Texas Roadhouse began the process to bring the franchise to East State Street in Athens by presenting plans to the city's Planning Commission on Thursday.

Due to the size of the proposed building, the project is subject to the city's Title 41 site plan review process, and will need approval from both the Planning Commission and the Athens Shade Tree commission.

Emily Bernahl, representing Texas Roadhouse, presented preliminary plans to the Planning Commission for the new restaurant that will seat approximately 245 guests and employ up to 150 people.

The restaurant is planned to be located in the parking lot of The Market on State in front of Tractor Supply.

Typical operating hours for Texas Roadhouse, Bernahl said, are 4-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

She also said that the Kentucky-based franchise is looking to add between 25 to 30 new restaurants across the United States in the coming year.

Athens Service-Safety Director Paula Moseley, who serves on the Planning Commission, noted that the restaurant's Saturday hours will conflict with the twice-weekly Athens Farmers Market, which currently occupies a portion of the parking lot where the restaurant is planned.

Market on State owners Brent Hayes and Tom Parfitt have previously discussed moving the Farmer's Market partially to another area of the parking lot to accommodate the new restaurant.

Earlier this summer, Neal Niklaus, a market partner and owner for various other Texas Roadhouse branches in Ohio, came to town to scope out the new location.

Niklaus said then that the company's goal was to have the new restaurant open in mid-February 2014 if all goes well.

Regarding the new jobs, Niklaus said, 50 employees would work in the kitchen with the remaining working "front-of-house" jobs. He said the restaurant typically has 45 people working each shift.

Before the business opens, he said, the company will set up a trailer to get the hiring process started. Once the hiring is complete, they will do a couple weeks of training capped off by a test-run dinner. At this event, all of the community members who participated in helping open the restaurant will be invited for a free meal to give the new employees experience before the official opening.

Asked why they chose Athens as a spot for a new franchise, Niklaus said the college-town appeal combined with the location along major routes made the site a no-brainer.

Athens Code Director John Paszke said earlier this month that Texas Roadhouse will have to go through Title 41, which establishes a number of requirements and review processes in order for a project to proceed.

The process begins with the preliminary meeting that was held Thursday and for a site plan to be filed with the city, which is then reviewed to make sure it's complete.

Paszke predicted Thursday that a site plan for the new restaurant will be filed with the city within the next couple months.

If the application is deemed complete and appropriate, it then will proceed to the Planning Commission for review.

The Planning Commission then "shall either approve the site plan based upon a determination that the proposed plan is in compliance with all minimum requirements, or shall approve the site plan, subject to conditions, modifications and restrictions that will ensure that the proposed plan is in compliance with all minimum requirements."

Standards for review include: Compliance with traffic requirements; parking provisions; lighting requirements; fire protection compatibility; water, sewer and trash facilities; and nuisance requirements.

Within 10 days of that decision, the commission shall then issue a written decision. If the plan is denied, an appeal can be made to the Athens County Common Pleas Court.

The business also will have to abide by the city's shade tree regulations.

According to city code Title 37, for every 1,527 square feet of impermeable surface at least one large shade tree or two medium-sized shade trees must be planted.

Paszke said additional requirements might have to be met if the project requires any variances, but on Thursday he said that so far no variance is being requested.

Variances would have to be approved by the Athens Board of Zoning Appeals. That would happen prior to Planning Commission meetings and review, he said.

As for a timeline for this process, Paszke said it is up to the businesses themselves.

Niklaus has said the franchise typically prefers to move quickly.

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I've heard through the grapevine (under the tree canopy) that Texas Roadhouse is willing to comply and has submitted a landscaping plan that the Tree Commission will approve (because it meets the requirements). I am relieved and happy that they have enough foresight that the Athens market (and I don't mean Athens Farmer's Market) is a good investment on their part. Hurray for possibly 150 jobs (and a decent meal).

So don't worry Ms. Moseley, the Farmer's Market can be accomodated at the other end by the movie theatre. And on safety, I'm also glad there's a traffic signal there because heaven forbid anyone come there to eat from Stewart, Guysville or Coolville and not be able to make a left turn to get back home. Ah advantage they will have over Mr. Bortle's new hotel and McDonald's.


Oh by the way. Could the Government Channel please post the video of the Aug. 15 Planning Commission where TRH and Tim Horton's was discussed? I'd actually like to hear the verbalized concerns about time conflict with the Farmer's Market and no left turns from the proposed hotel, especially when left turns aren't prohibited from Townsend, Pinchot Lane, Don Wood, CrossRoads, Wendy's, Aldi's, Hocking Valley Bank, Mac's Thrifty or Friendly Paws.
I'd say Mr. Bortle is conceding just to get on with it.