Request denied

Developer Rhone Bird addresses the Ada City Council on Monday. The council rejected Bird’s request to rezone the southwest corner of Arlington Street and Crownpoint Drive from a commercial office and one-family district to a neighborhood commercial district with planned unit development.

Opponents of a request to rezone the southwest corner of Arlington Street and Crownpoint Drive flocked to Monday’s Ada City Council meeting, hoping to convince the council to deny the request.

And they succeeded.

The Ada City Council considered a motion to rezone the eastern two lots and part of a third lot from a one-family and an office commercial district to a neighborhood commercial district with planned unit development. That motion failed on a 2-3 vote, with Councilmen Bryan Morris and Guy Sewell voting for it and Councilmen Ben McFarlane, Tre’ Landrum and Randy McFarlin voting against it.

The council also took up a motion to deny a request to rezone the western lots as a neighborhood commercial district. That motion passed, 5-0.

Development plans

Developer Rhone Bird, a co-founder of the Nichols Hills-based company Tall Grass Capital, had requested the zoning change to make way for a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant on the eastern two lots and part of a third lot. The remaining lots would have been reserved for future retail development.

But Bird’s request drew criticism from people who have a home or business in that neighborhood, who worried that a fast-food restaurant at the corner of Arlington and Crownpoint would lead to a spike in traffic and other problems.

“There are no fast-food restaurants anywhere on the south side of Arlington, all the way from Mississippi to Monte Vista,” said Ada Smiles Place chief financial officer Rita Edwards, whose family opposed the zoning change. “That was part of the plan because south of Arlington are residential areas, two of which have protective covenants.”

Edwards also complained that granting Bird’s request would pave the way for more fast-food restaurants and retail businesses along the Arlington corridor, which is already home to several medical and professional offices.

Bird noted that the lots where the Wendy’s would sit were not covered by a protective covenant, unlike the remaining lots. He added that Meritage Hospitality Group, a restaurant operator that would run the Wendy’s in Ada, was willing to work with neighborhood residents to address their concerns.

“Wendy’s came in here twice,” Bird said. “He was very articulate — better than I am — and sat there and told everybody they’d address the sound and volume, address the lighting issue. Addressed all of the concerns. Said, along with myself, that we would build an eight-foot fence over a six-foot fence.

“It’s like I’ve said all along. I said, ‘Instead of you guys objecting to this, tell me what you guys would request of me, and I’m willing to go forward and try to help with that notion.’”

Bird also said that Wendy’s would generate about $2.5 million in sales tax revenue for Ada each year, and additional retailers in the proposed development would produce another $2.5 million for city coffers.

“You can’t draw those (numbers) out of commercial office,” he said. “And what does commercial office bring in for tax revenue for the city? Nothing. What does the dental office that they have bring in for tax revenue for the city? Nothing.”

But Bird’s arguments did not sway people who disliked the idea of having a Wendy’s in their neighborhood.

Alisa Mabry, who lives next to the property in question, said she had mixed feelings about putting a Wendy’s that close to her house.

“It’s not going to be the same home that we’ve lived in for 28 years,” she said. “We want to be cordial — we don’t want to fight — but we want our home.”

Restrictive covenants

The existence of restrictive covenants for the western lots concerned the council members — even though City Attorney Frank Stout said the city doesn’t look at covenants when considering zoning changes.

Councilman Morris said the covenant issue concerned him, even though it would not prevent the council from being able to rezone the property. He said the covenants specifically barred commercial developments on the western lots.

Morris said if the council approved the rezone for the southwest corner of Arlington and Crownpoint, the developer would have two years to begin building. As a result, he said, the property would be tied up for two years.

“What if they never get the restrictive covenants lifted?” Morris said. “Then, I guess after two years, it reverts back to R-1 (a one-family district) and we’re back to square one. … That’s a risk I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. …

“If we don’t approve the zoning change to C-1 (neighborhood commercial district), I think Mr. Bird is pretty much stuck in that contract, and he’s going to have to sit there on that. He’s going to purchase that lot, and he’s not going to be able to sell it at commercial one, maybe forever. And that lot’s going to sit there all that time, not generating any tax dollars for the city of Ada. And I’ve got a concern about that.”

Morris said he had to weigh Bird’s interests against the concerns of the people who live in that neighborhood.

The covenant issue also concerned Councilman Guy Sewell, who said he thought the property was a bad location for a commercial development.

“I don’t have an objection to a Wendy’s,” he said. “But if there’s a covenant on those other lots, how can we ignore that? How can we ignore that? That’s our job.”

Richard R. Barron | The Ada News

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.