City Council denies coffee shop drive-thru

Ennis Inc. attorneys cite past agreement against commercial development next to headquarters

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
The headquarters of Ennis Inc. on Presidential Parkway in Midlothian. A proposed nearby drive-thru for a coffee shop was denied by the Midlothian City Council after Ennis Inc. attorneys objected to it.

The message of the Midlothian City Council in its last two meetings is that applicants for drive-thrus had better check with their neighbors first.

A specific-use permit for a locally-owned coffee shop drive-thru at 2450 Presidential Parkway was denied by a vote of the council during Tuesday night’s regular meeting. The vote for denial was 4-2, with Wayne Sibley and mayor pro tem Ted Miller in favor of approval. Mayor Richard Reno and councilmembers Hud Hartson, Justin Coffman and Walter Darrach voted in favor of denial. Councilmember Clark Wickliffe was absent.

Attorney Dan Gus, general counsel of Ennis Inc. whose corporate headquarters is nearby, said his company was disappointed by commercial developments — including a Whataburger — near his company’s headquarters and urged denial of the drive-thru based on the amount of traffic that would be generated.

Mike McGill, another Ennis Inc. attorney, said the company was promised top-level professional office space in the area of the headquarters when it opened in 2004 and said it appeared the company “was sold a bill of goods.”

City planning director Trenton Robertson said the proposed coffee shop is part of a multitenant building. Robertson said the area is zoned straight Commercial with no planned development involved, and a number of business categories are permitted by right in a Commercial zone.

Applicant Cliff Parker, the owner of the building, said the location is a half-mile from  Walnut Grove Road, a source of traffic congestion. Parker said the coffee shop is modeled after the Central Park shop in the 1990s television sitcom “Friends.”

Assistant city engineer Scott Morrow told the council that, with the construction of a frontage road along U.S. Highway 287, traffic on Presidential Parkway will be routed to the turnaround at the new Walnut Grove interchange to prevent left turns at a still-existing at-grade intersection in front of the Whataburger.

Morrow’s answer satisfied Miller and Sibley, but it wasn’t enough to sway the other councilmembers. Coffman said putting a Whataburger in an area slotted for professional development was probably “a mistake.” Darrach added that the drive-thru activity will affect other tenants in the area and that the rights of existing property owners, namely Ennis, need to be considered.

In the council’s last meeting on July 13, councilmembers approved on a 4-3 vote a drive-thru for a new Starbucks location on Hawkins Run Road. The council’s action reversed a denial vote by the city Planning and Zoning Commission, based on site plan revisions.

Other items

• The City Council agreed unanimously that names and branches of service of local veterans will be engraved on the Midlothian Veterans’ Memorial and directed staff to move forward. City Manager Chris Dick said a committee will vet names to be added. Dick went over a proposed list of rules for eligibility to be added: served in the armed forces, lived in either Midlothian city limits or its extraterritorial jurisdiction, served after the city’s incorporation in 1888 and honorably discharged. Mayor Reno said he hopes the names will be added by Veterans Day 2022.

• The council received a quarterly investment report from Patterson and Associates. Linda Patterson, president of the Austin firm that manages the city’s investments, said supply-chain issues, federal stimulus money and labor shortages are contributing to inflation as the economy recovers from COVID-19.

• Dick presented an overview of the proposed 2021-2022 city budget with goals of maintaining the current tax rate of 67.5 cents per $100 valuation and beginning implementation of the voter-approved bond program from May’s referendum. The council was to meet in a workshop on Friday to fine-tune the budget.

• Approved consent agenda items included previous meeting minutes, interlocal agreements with Ellis County and the city of Sachse, a collection agreement with the Linebarger firm for collection of property taxes owed to all Redden Farms Public Improvement District entities, and the adoption of a city emergency management plan.

• A planned development district at 103 North 1st Street was amended to allow a beauty and nail salon at that location.

• An agreement with Kimley-Horn and Associates was approved for the city’s ongoing water and sewer improvement project for the old part of town. The agreement is for the design of the next phase of improvements along Avenue D and 3rd Street, city public works director Adam Mergener told the board.

• A $3.978 million total bid was awarded to Circle H Contractors LP for the Hawkins Run  Road extension, which is part of the 2021 bond issue.

• The council awarded a natural gas franchise to SiEnergy LP for service within the city. The company plans to provide services to newly-developed areas, particularly in the Westside Preserve development, and doesn’t plan to go into already-developed areas to compete with long-established energy companies.

• Councilmembers agreed to apply for funds from the state Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, which is a block grant provided from the federal government. City finance director Ann Honza said the city stands to receive more than $7 million in funds.

• A revision to the city’s human resources manual was approved to authorize paid quarantine leave for city first responders exposed to a communicable disease while on duty. The leave policy was required in June by an act of the Texas Legislature.

• The council approved a contract with Design Workshop for $200,500 to create a master plan for open space and trails for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. The Midlothian Community Development Corporation will be funding the project. The master plan will include homeowner association parks as well as Midlothian ISD facilities that are open to the public.

• Following an executive session to discuss real estate at 300 North 8th Street and 101 East Avenue E, no public action was taken.