Tract map

Woodcraft’s mixed-use development plan for the northwest corner of Base Line and Church Avenue is anchored by the Tractor Supply Co. store but is made viable by the inclusion of restaurants, multi-family housing and additional commercial retail store.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, Highland City Council voted to remove a prohibition of new drive-thru commercial buildings from the city’s General Plan Town Center Policy, which regulates development along Base Line between Cole Avenue and State Route 210.

Lifting the ban on new drive-thrus within the Town Center area was a condition of the Planning Commission’s Dec. 7 approval of entitlements for a mixed-use development planned for the northwest corner of Base Line and Church Avenue.

The development is anchored by an 18,800-square-foot Tractor Supply Co. store and a 21-unit multi-family complex on the west side of the property, but also includes two proposed drive thru restaurants, a 3,175-square-foot retail commercial building (suitable for a sit-down restaurant) and a 27,000-square-foot commercial building.

According to the developer, Woodcrest Real Estate Ventures, while bringing the Tractor Supply Co. to Highland is the main goal, the additional structures are what make acquisition and development of the property financially viable.

“It’s an expensive piece of property and expensive to develop, and we have to master plan it so it’s good for the community as well as our client,” said Steve Powell of Woodcrest. “We cannot justify this project just for Tractor Supply.”

The city’s restriction on drive-thru restaurants was meant to promote walk-in shopping, sit-down restaurants and other pedestrian-friendly development that could help grow the area into a “downtown.” But, since the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-thru and pick-up facilities have become a deal-breaker demand among restaurants and other businesses.

When discussing the demands of prospective tenants, Powell told the Planning Commission, “A lot of pressure has been put on us in the last couple of years, especially with the pandemic and relating to the restaurant industry, where the demand for a drive-thru component is almost mandatory.”

Even tenants that have been traditionally sit-down restaurants are now demanding drive-thru features, Powell added.

“I know our city, from listening to their comments, is tired of drive-thrus, as much as we do enjoy them, and they really do want to sit down at a quality restaurant. But I understand what you’re saying and we don't want to turn away business,” Mayor Pro Tem Penny Lilburn said.

“If anything has come through during this whole COVID thing it’s that having drive-thru facilities is paramount. If you didn’t have one you probably went under,” said Councilman John Timmer. “I understand why we did this years ago, but times have changed, people’s habits have changed, and to limit businesses and say they can’t have drive-thru facilities—I don’t want to do that. Having drive-thru has become necessary for businesses to survive these days.”

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