Plans for a Taco Bell fast-food restaurant on Airport Road in Allentown were introduced to the city's planning commission Tuesday afternoon.
The new Taco Bell will replace the one located on nearby Union Boulevard. It will be a nicer and larger facility, said attorney Erich J. Schock, who represented the developers.
The 2,790-square-foot Taco Bell will have 63 seats plus a drive-thru. It is planned on a 0.7-acre lot, replacing Jimmy’s Place at 1102-1122 Airport Rd., between Congress and Highland streets.
“We believe it’s a substantial improvement over what’s out there today,” said John Pettit, engineer for the Taco Bell project.
“I like the plan. It’s a great use of that lot – certainly better than what it is today,” agreed planner Christian Brown.
The commission also discussed plans for a project on the opposite side of town -- a Dollar General Store proposed at W. Emmaus Avenue and 28th Street.
Neither plan was approved Tuesday.
Schock, who represented developers of both projects, indicated construction of the new Dollar General Store might begin before the end of this year because that project is much closer to getting city approval.
The Taco Bell developers will need relief from the city’s zoning hearing board regarding some required street trees and a five-foot planting strip buffer on Airport Road.
On Tuesday, planners raised driving safety concerns about both projects. The Taco Bell is proposed with three vehicle entrances: off Airport Road, Congress and Highland.
Only southbound traffic will be able to use the Airport Road entrance road, and those leaving the restaurant via that exit only will be able to turn right.
Planners are concerned about the proposed Highland Street exit, which would be used by those leaving the drive-thru. Because no traffic light is at Highland and Airport Road, anyone wanting to go north on Airport Road would have to cross four lanes of traffic.
“That’s just a bad situation waiting to happen,” said planner Anthony Toth.
The intersection of Congress and Airport Road does have traffic lights.
Options discussed would be for the developer to erect signs on the property advising those who want to go north on Airport Road to take Congress Street, designing the Highland Street exit so traffic can only go right onto Highland or eliminating that exit.
The plan still has to be approved by the state Department of Transportation.
Pettit said 31 parking spaces are proposed, although the city requires only 18. He said sidewalks with 3.5-foot-wide grass strips also will be added. Some planners suggested reducing the amount of parking spaces so required buffers can be added.
“It would make a really good plan that much better,” said Brown.
The planning commission will take another look at the Taco Bell plans next month.
The 9,100-square-foot Dollar General Store would be built on a 1.2-acre vacant lot at 2811 W. Emmaus Ave. That project has been before planners before.
The store would be accessed only off 28th Street, not off Emmaus Avenue. Planners were concerned that proposed entrance is not far enough away from the intersection. They don’t want traffic waiting to turn left into the store creating a back-up up on 28th Street and possibly even on Emmaus Avenue, especially because that traffic could include tractor-trailers.
Richard Young, Allentown’s public works director, said the city feels strongly about moving the driveway.
“Always, the farther from an intersection you can get a driveway, the better,” Young said.
He said if someone is waiting to turn into the store off 28th Street, all traffic behind that vehicle will be blocked “and that’s going to push it right out to Emmaus Avenue.”
“We understand the concern, it’s not something we take lightly,” said Matt Chartrand, the project engineer. But he maintained the plan presented is the best scenario to allow the store to function with the surrounding road network. He said the driveway could be moved if the building could be moved, but that can’t happen because of grades and storm water run-off issues.