A battle is brewing over popular coffee chain, Dutch Bros as their surrounding neighbors try to stop them from moving to another location after being ordered to shut down their current location at Central Avenue and Camelback Road.
Their current site is set to close no later than Feb. 28, 2020. This based on an agreement by the Dutch Bros franchise owner and representatives of nearby businesses who claimed the coffee shop cause too much traffic and parking issues.
Purpose Driven Development has asked for rezoning at a site around 140 feet east of the northeast corner of 3rd Avenue and Camelback Road that would remove a special permit that allows for car rental and leasing. This is the new location where Dutch Bros would like to relocate. A house converted into an Enterprise Rent-a-Car was on the site from 1999 until 2011. It was demolished in 2016.
The request for rezoning would allow commercial use. At a meeting in late August, the Alhambra Village Planning Committee voted to recommend the zoning request be denied but the Phoenix Planning Commission in September pushed the issue to a later date.
During the meeting, several residents spoke out against the proposal to allow the rezoning.
Ellen Bilbrey, president of the Medlock Place Historic Neighborhood Association, which sent a letter to planning officials opposing the request to rezone, told the Planning Committee that the Dutch Bros. drive-through would result in vehicles idling waiting and hundreds of cars entering and exiting the Dutch Bros. onto Camelback Road, many of which likely would turn onto 3rd Avenue where Medlock neighbors are already frustrated by cut-through traffic.
Rick Mountjoy, chairman of the Traffic Committee for the Medlock Place Historic Neighborhood Association, shared some of the same worries.
“[This request] foreshadows the typical mechanism of decline of many older neighborhoods in Phoenix,’ Mountjoy said. “We agree with the Federal Transit Administration and the City of Phoenix that this neighborhood become a Walkable Urban Community.”
David Gartner, a neighbor and parent, also opposed the potential rezoning.
“This is the most walkable place we have in Phoenix,” Gartner said. “Let’s not destroy it.”
Susan Demmitt, the attorney representing Dutch Bros. on behalf of the property owner, spoke in support of the rezoning, as did Village Planning Committee member Charles Jones.
“This is really about restoring the ability to develop this property with the underlying uses,” Demmitt said. “We have been in conversations with neighbors for many, many miles. The property is not developable today.”
Jones says the neighbors need to focus on removing the car rental permit rather than basing their opinion on the potential Dutch Bros. He voted against a motion to recommend denying the rezoning.
“There really is a fairness issue,” Jones said. “I see it as a private property right.”
Nonetheless, he was unable to convince others on the committee to support it.
“The owner of the property certainly has rights,” Village Planning Committee member Gary LeBlanc said. “At the same time we’ve got to protect our neighborhoods and the TOD is very specific.”
After the committee voted to recommend denying the zoning change, Demmitt said the property owner cannot move forward without approval.
“We don’t agree with the decision,” Demmitt said. “I think it’s really in reaction to the possibility of Dutch Bros. There’s been a lot of dialogue with the neighbors regarding traffic at that site.”
Demmitt said the proposed property is larger than the current Dutch Bros location and the drive-through would be “big enough so traffic doesn’t overflow onto Camelback.”
Mountjoy said he, Bilbrey and other neighbors met with city staff members, Demmitt and Dutch Bros. representatives in a private meeting late in August. Dutch Bros is expected to conduct a traffic study of how a coffee shop on the proposed site would affect vehicles moving around the neighborhood.
The Phoenix Planning Commission is expected to consider the request at its Oct. 3 meeting and the City Council will likely discuss it on Nov. 6.
Click here to learn more about Dutch Bros Coffee.