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UPDATE: Taco Bell Pulls Application for Hair Bar Site

In the face of a looming refusal from the Council, Taco Bell withdrew their development application.

UPDATE: Instead of getting denied by the City Council, and after strong neighborhood push-back, Taco Bell has pulled its application to develop a site on Frederick Avenue.

Director of Planning and Code Enforcement Greg Ossont said the developers could see that they were going to be denied, and decided to withdraw their application.

The site, which is currently home to the , is at 307-309 N. Frederick Ave.

ORIGINAL STORY May 18:

Residents of Montgomery and Maryland Avenues came out to Monday's mayor and council meeting to voice their strong disapproval of a proposed plan to build a Taco Bell, with accompanying parking lot and drive-through, at the site of an historic building that now houses the Hair Bar.

The property, located at 307-309 North Frederick Avenue, between Montgomery and Maryland Avenues, is also partitioned by an alley that runs parallel to Route 355 and connects the local streets. As part of the development of the new restaurant, Taco Bell of America has offered to relocate the Hair Bar down Montgomery Avenue near the alley.

More than a dozen residents spoke after Taco Bell had finished its presentation of the development plan, telling the mayor and council that the restaurant would bring increased traffic to streets where it is already difficult to turn onto 355 during rush hours, as well as unwanted noise and trash.

"As a homeowner in this area I strongly encourage you not to allow this kind of use," one resident, who used a wheelchair, said. "It increases the traffic too much, and greatly decreases the opportunity for children to walk in that area" and for people with children to move to the community.

The council strongly agreed.

"Candidly, I don't see where this is a good plan at this point," Mayor Sidney Katz said. "The traffic flow is very poor."

Of most concern to residents and the council was the plan's use of the alleyway as part of the drive-through, which would wrap around the parking lot. The restaurant would also use Montgomery Avenue, not Frederick Avenue, as the entrance to the parking lot; though the storefront would face 355, patrons would have to make a right turn on Montgomery to park or use the drive-through.

"That drive-through traffic is probably going to use that alley as much as they use the parking lot to use the drive-through lane," Councilmember Mike Sesma said. "So my concern is the potential for noise and traffic in the alleyway next to the property that already exists."

According to Taco Bell's presentation, the alleyway would be widened to accommodate the increased the traffic, and that the property would not need as much parking because the design makes the restaurant rely on drive-through traffic.

The actual layout of the drive-through also raised eyebrows on the council.

According to Taco Bell, the actual drive-through lane would provide nine queuing spaces, and the presenter said, "We are confident there won't be any queuing at this site," and that traffic wouldn't stop up the alleyway and Montgomery Avenue. The council expressed their doubts about that as well, as it is already difficult to turn onto Frederick Avenue, and vehicles leaving the restaurant would only make it worse.

"How do you guys account for what's going to happen on Montgomery Avenue, and the stacking we're going to have there and the impact it's going to have on that neighborhood?" Council Vice President Jud Ashman asked.

The presenter replied "That's a good question," saying there hasn't been a queuing or traffic analysis conducted yet.

Council member Cathy Drzyzgula noted that vehicles leaving the drive-through, which empties into the parking lot right next to the lot's entrance, would have to make a quick left turn to get out, forcing them to wait for traffic entering the lot and further causing congestion.

Drzyzgula also criticized Taco Bell's contribution of $15,000 toward development of Frederick Avenue. "$15,000 doesn't even buy a third of a traffic island," she said. One resident called the amount "insulting."

The Hair Bar, also known as the Talbott House, was built in 1921. The current owner, Hamza Halici, purchased the property in 1978. The building was designated an historic structure by the City in 1989. Halici has been trying to get permission to demolish and develop the property since as early as 1998.

The council voted to keep the public record open until June 16.

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