Fircrest, the island-of-a-city known for ticketing speeders and fighting off Wal-Mart, must make another choice that could forever change its character.
The question: Should a coffee shop in the suburban city’s commercial core be allowed to operate a drive-through?
OK, it might not be on the same level as defeating a global retail giant, but Fircrest officials will discuss the request by Trans Pacific Properties Inc., starting with tonight’s planning commission meeting.
The Fife-based company that has an office in Fircrest owns the 40,000-square-foot Village Square complex, which it refers to as Town Center.
Property Manager Tyson Johnson said the company purchased and renovated the complex on Regents Boulevard more than a year ago. It also began to attract tenants, including a coffee shop.
He said the owners of the Greener Bean Coffee Company plan to open their business possibly by this month in a spot that used to be a bakery.
One of the reasons the coffee shop agreed to locate in Fircrest Town Center was Johnson’s willingness to offer drive-through service.
Ask a busy customer of Starbucks, Tully’s, Cutters Point or any other coffee joint these days, and chances are they use the drive-through often. Some make so many visits the baristas can recognize their voice through the speaker.
"With coffee shops and espresso stands, a lot of their business is through the drive-through," Johnson said.
They may seem like an afterthought in this coffee-crazed corner of the country, but they’re not allowed in Fircrest Town Center.
Ray Gilmore, the city’s planning and building director, says the problem is zoning. Drive-through coffee shops aren’t allowed in the commercial neighborhood areas of Fircrest, which is where the complex is located.
The city of 6,300 has eight businesses that offer drive-throughs — four banks, a cleaners, a restaurant and, oddly enough, two coffee joints.
All but one of those businesses are located in parts of the city that allow drive-throughs. The business located near the Town Center complex — the cleaners — has been there since the late 1970s, so it predates Fircrest’s zoning rules, Gilmore said.
"We just don’t have that many drive-through businesses," he said.
Johnson also admitted there weren’t as many drive-through coffee stands in 1998, the last time the city amended its comprehensive plan.
Staff isn’t recommending any more amendments based on Trans Pacific’s request. Instead, they recommend the coffee shop operate with a conditional use permit, which would still allow the drive-through if the coffee shop helps take care of adjacent streets maintenance.
The Fircrest Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and is scheduled to vote on a recommendation tonight. The Fircrest City Council could decide on the issue by October.