During a town hall meeting held Monday evening, Aledo residents spoke out against a proposed Taco Bell being constructed in the “gateway” to the city.
The property where the Taco Bell has been proposed is by the newly built CVS, near the corner of Farm-to-Market Road 1187 and Bailey Ranch Road. The Taco Bell would be operated by Southern Multifoods, an independent franchisee out of Jacksonville, Texas.
“The land that we’re talking about is about 40,000 square feet, our building is about 2,300 square feet and it will have an outdoor patio that seats about 12 people. Inside seats about 40 people. We have positioned the building as far up toward 1187 that we can go,” Southern Multifoods Director of Development Mike Sansbury said. “The other question we get a lot of times is are we going to put up a big pole sign? The answer is no. It will be a monument sign, it will be right out in front, very similar to what CVS has got.”
Sansbury added that Southern Multifoods believes they meet the city’s proposed strategic plan for the FM 1187 corridor. The strategic plan has been put together by Velocity Group, but has not yet been approved by the Aledo city council.
“We’ve talked about Velocity Group and in that [the plan] talks about the 1187 corridor and there’s six bullet points, and we believe we meet all of them in that report,” Sansbury said. “It talks about orienting developments in a walkable format, we’ll have a sidewalk that will join the sidewalk on 1187. The second one is site parking, we will have site parking. The third one is locating the building close to the street, that’s what we’re doing with the existing access easement. The fourth one, request sidewalks, we will have an accessible sidewalk. The fifth one is connecting to adjacent properties and we’ll provide access to the CVS and cross access the property to the north. The last one is a two-story limit, our building is one story. I just wanted to mention to everybody that we did take time to look at that report, we did take the time to make sure we were in compliance to what was discussed previously.”
Aledo resident Chris Handy read aloud a portion of the Velocity Group’s proposed strategic plan for the district that encompasses the property, the Aledo gateway.
“‘As one of the main entrances to the city, this district should set the aesthetic tone and expectations of the community as well as provide a community gathering place that celebrates the proximity of the high school and the school district administrative buildings.’ The sentence that stands out for me there is, ‘as one of the main entrances to the city, the district should set the aesthetic tone and expectations of the community,’” Handy said. “What I’m hearing everyone here say today is what we want to set the aesthetic tone to the city is a Taco Bell. It’s a good business, a good franchise, but it’s still a Taco Bell. I hear that this is going to be submitted as part of the strategic plan.”
Fritz Quast, a Fort Worth attorney who represents cities, said the zoning for the property can’t be changed in the middle of a development project. Zoning can be changed by the city council, but not for a property that has already met requirements with a submitted application.
“Essentially what this issue entails is right now there’s a commercial development coming to the city and what will come before the city council in the future is a request to replat. The zoning is something completely different. What the planning and zoning commission and the council does is they look at the rules and they look at the plat and they check boxes, so as long as the plat applies to all regulations that have been previously adopted, the law says that a city council has a ministerial, non-discretionary duty to approve the plat,” Fritz Quast, a Fort Worth attorney that represents cities, said. “The zoning has already been in place on the property. When someone comes in with an application to do something, the state law says that you can’t change the classification on the property. The reason for that law is that the state government didn’t want cities changing the rules on developers in the middle of the game. Zoning classifications can’t be changed on someone in the middle of a development project. Cities can’t get sued for a lot of stuff, but they can certainly get sued if platting is not approved when it should be.”
Southern Multifoods President and CEO Drew Durrett said it is not their intention to sue the city of Aledo; however, if the replat was denied, he said he didn’t know.
Aledo business owner Troy Austin, who also previously served on the city’s planning and zoning commission, said after reviewing the subdivision ordinances, he believes there is some room for the city to argue.
“I understand there are legal regulations and things you have to comply with, without a doubt, and I understand that there’s fear with regard to being sued, I get that too. I understand that there’s money that has to be spent when you do take a stand, but I would hope that when you see your citizens wanting something, you would try to find a way to get your citizens what they want within that letter of the law. If there’s a way to keep a Taco Bell, or any fast food chain for that matter, from being the gateway that represents us when you come into Aledo, I would just ask that you look and see if there is a way to navigate,” Austin said. “One of the subdivision ordinances really gives you a way to say, ‘If this isn’t in general conformant with our comprehensive plan, and it’s not what our city wants, then we have the ability to step up.’ It leaves you some room to argue. So all I’m saying is that you take a look at that. It’s clear that your citizens don’t want this.”
Sabrina Gilbert said with the Aledo ISD Police Department only having a presence until 9 p.m. each night, who would take care of any issues that may arise with intoxicated people, or other incidents, coming to a Taco Bell that’s open until 2 a.m.
“I have lived in Aledo for 15 years and one of the reasons I moved here was because of how safe it is,” Gilbert said. “I don’t know if everyone knows that we only have law enforcement present until 9 p.m. every night.”
Durrett said this Taco Bell wouldn’t be open until 2 a.m., but would be open past 9 p.m., and that they haven’t had any issues at their locations.
“We don’t have problems at our stores. Taco Bell doesn’t attract violence and we never have. If it does happen, we’re going to take care of it. It’s not the city’s problem, it’s our problem,” Durrett said. “But that’s not the nature of our business.”
Aledo Mayor Kit Marshall also pointed out that the city has a contract with the Parker County Sheriff’s Office where they get two units that patrol the city on a rotating schedule beyond 9 p.m.
Aledo resident Robert Cox, who lives off Bankhead Highway, said he has “a real problem with ugly” and doesn’t think a Taco Bell is fitting for the city.
Everybody can drive down Bankhead and it’s just a collection of metal buildings, things thrown up ... Ugly is buildings that don’t aesthetically look appropriate in a community such as ours. That’s my issue. I don’t care if it’s a Taco Bell, it’s just the aesthetic look of it should be one of such that it commends the nature of our community and we should have some regulations with all those things about zoning and platting and such, that contribute to the long term plan,” Cox said. “Bankhead has never had a long term plan. Then you’re going to put the Taco Bell [in] and other things that just don’t fit the mold of what in my mind we should have here in Aledo.”
About nine other residents and business owners of Aledo spoke out against the approval of Taco Bell.
Aledo Place 5 Councilmember Daniel Herbert asked Durrett why they wanted to come to Aledo and if it gave them any pause to see the pushback from residents.
“We’re very familiar with rural markets in Texas. We’ve been looking at Aledo for quite some time and we feel like right now is a great time to build a store in Aledo, Texas,” Durrett said. “No, it does not give us any pause.”
Place 4 Councilmember Kimberly Hiebert said the council will be gathering as much information as they can before it’s time to take action.
“I’ve been in Aledo for 20 years and have seen a lot of growth, and I hear everything that’s being said. I have similar feelings, but also a duty as a city councilman to protect the city and to look at all the sides, the risks and also obviously the citizens,” Hiebert said. “We’re taking note of all of this and gathering as much information between now and then as we can so we can make the best decision for the city.”
Marshall said it’s important to hear from residents and that’s why the decision was made to hold the town hall meeting.
“I’m passionate about our city and it’s important to us to hear from our residents because if we don’t, we feel like everything is going well. To be honest with you I feel like things have gone well. So we’re taking time to send emails and have you come here because this was set up specifically for you,” Marshall said. “I do want you to know that the council and I serve our residents as volunteers. There’s some bad information out there that says we get paid and I want you to understand we do not. We volunteer our service and our time to try to make the very best decisions for you our residents and for our business owners.”
No action was taken at the town hall and the item will be brought back to a future city council meeting.