A developer who wants to bring a Wendy’s restaurant to Ada cleared his first hurdle Thursday.

The Ada Metropolitan Area Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-1 to recommend approving developer Rhone Bird’s request to rezone the southwest corner of Arlington and Crownpoint Drive. Bird is a co-founder of Tall Grass Capital, a Nichols Hills-based company focused on commercial real estate development, construction and property management.

The property was originally zoned as a one-family district and an office commercial district, but Bird asked for it to be rezoned as a neighborhood commercial district with planned unit development.

The Wendy’s restaurant would be located on the eastern two lots and part of another lot at the corner of Arlington and Crownpoint, according to information from City Hall. The western lots would be reserved for future commercial development.

Opposition

Some people who either live in that neighborhood or own a business there said they did not have a problem with Wendy’s as such, but they did not think it should be located at Arlington and Crownpoint. They argued that a fast-food restaurant on that property would lead to more traffic in an already busy corridor, which could create problems for the neighborhood.

Alisa Mabry, who lives next door to the property in question, said she was concerned that restaurant-related traffic would cause health problems for her son, who has severe asthma.

“We’re concerned about his welfare,” she said. “He is affected by things like that, so we’ll have medical bills that will be piling up because we’ll be taking him to the doctor.”

Bird’s representative, Greg Chansolme, said a recent study indicated that putting a Wendy’s at Arlington and Crownpoint would not cause a dramatic spike in traffic in that area, even during peak business hours.

“I’m not sure that it will be any more conducive to a substantial increase than what it currently stands at,” Chansolme said.

But Rita Edwards, chief financial officer at Ada Smile Place, complained that the study was not accurate because it did not include certain information, such as the busiest times for Vision Bank’s Arlington branch. She also said the study was conducted while East Central

University was closed for winter break — so it did not take student traffic into account.

“I just feel that the board, the people here and for some of the other things that I’m going to address, that we need to have a reliable traffic study,” Edwards said.

Edwards said she had recently conducted an independent traffic count at the Wendy’s restaurant in Purcell, which coincided with Purcell High School’s lunch hour.

She said she had counted 71 cars at the Purcell Wendy’s from 11:45 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. that day — in addition to about 37 high school students who parked at a nearby Braum’s and walked to Wendy’s — and she was concerned that the Ada Wendy’s would have similar numbers.

“I’m not opposed to Wendy’s — I ate at Wendy’s while I was there,” Edwards said. “I’m just thinking the location is not the best fit or the safest location in Ada.”

Traffic counts

Edwards’ comments drew a response from Jeremy Bynum with Meritage Hospitality Group, a restaurant operator that oversees more than 300 Wendy’s restaurants. Bynum noted that the Purcell Wendy’s is located near a truck stop and is close to a major highway, so it was difficult to compare traffic counts for Purcell and Ada.

“Counts would be extremely elevated and exaggerated compared to what we’re going to experience here in Ada,” Bynum said. “Initial business, you’re going to have increased traffic flow. That’s just how a community responds to a new business.

“Typically, when we settle down, there’s a difference of almost 65 percent from opening sales to settled sales within three months — sometimes less than that, depending on the time of year you’re opening.”

Developer Rhone Bird said if his rezoning request were granted, he would work with city officials to address traffic problems and other issues.

“We’re going to look at Crownpoint Boulevard specifically — that street — and figure out the best design from an engineering standpoint. And we already discussed that with the city,” Bird said. “We’re going to make this thing right.”

Bird also said he would be glad to ask the person who conducted the original traffic study to do some more research.

“I’ll go back to this traffic engineer and suggest your hours to him,” he said. “I paid $14,000, so I’ll take some concerns and say, ‘Hey, listen, I need some adjustments made.’

“I’m just — we were rushed and expedited to get this in by today, so I did the best I could.”

In other business, the zoning commission voted 4-2 to recommend approving a request to rezone 911 Tipton Terrace from a two-family district to a general commercial district.

The applicant, Josh Oats, had requested the zoning change so he could open a medical marijuana dispensary at that location.

The zoning commission’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Ada City Council, which will take up those issues at its Feb. 4 meeting.

Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.