By Luke Klink
A proposal to supersize the McDonald’s restaurant by adding a new second drive-up ordering lane drew a McFlurry of opposition Monday from aldermen on the Ladysmith Common Council.
Although the city’s plan commission approved a site plan for the project late last week, council members were quick to question the extra value to a second drive-up ordering lane. They questioned the restaurant’s use of a city street for its drive-up traffic and the commission’s authority to grant the request.
There is no curb on W. 10th Street S running along the east side of the restaurant, making the street appear to blend in with the McDonald’s parking lot. A site plan showing the restaurant’s property boundaries shows current parking stalls extending into the street right-of-way. Northbound motorists currently approaching the drive-up window ordering area now can be seen waiting their turn in the street’s through-traffic lane or turn into southbound lane of traffic to wait their turn.
Aldermen and Police Chief Allen Lobermeier called the existing traffic situation dangerous and an accident waiting to happen.
Public Works Director Kurt Gorsegner told the council restaurant owners may have an easement to use the street for their parking and drive-up ordering lanes, but that document has not yet been produced. Traffic must make left turns around the restaurant so drivers pull up beside the drive-up window on the west side of the building, limiting traffic flow options.
“There is still an awful lot of activity going on in the southbound lane of 10th Street,” Ald. Marty Reynolds said. “We don’t allow anyone else to use a public street for their private parking or as a turn lane for their drive-through.”
“I think the drive-through is more concerning,” Gorsegner said. “They are actually designating 10th Street as a lane for their drive-through.”
The site plan prepared for restaurant owners states, “Obtain all necessary permits for construction within, or use of, public right-of-way.”
Ald. Mike Hraban called the plan “a confusing mess.”
An architect for McDonald’s said the additional drive-up ordering lane would cut wait times in half, limiting traffic congestion by speeding up the order process
The outside improvements are part of an extensive restaurant remodeling that includes relocating restrooms, adding kitchen food storage and additional interior improvements.
Lobermeier asked if the city could make W. 10th Street S a one-way street to make the proposal safer, similar to other recent city street travel changes done for safety reasons.
Reynolds, the council’s liaison to the plan commission called for the city to seek a legal injunction, to halt the plan commission’s site plan approval. He said he didn’t have an issue with improvements to the actual property owned by restaurant owners, but he opposed the restaurant encroaching onto city right-of-way it does own.
“We are allowing them to use a public street for their parking, and on top of that a turn lane has been put in on a city street. I don’t know if the plan commission has the authority to do that,” he said.
Lobermeier said his department has not issued tickets to drivers waiting in traffic on W. 10th Street S, either stopped in their lane of travel or in the opposite lane while waiting their turn at the ordering area. He believed adding a second ordering lane could McDouble the current parking problems.
“We haven’t written any tickets but when you get a head-on accident and they say, ‘why are we allowing this,’ what’s going to happen then?” Lobermeier said.
Gorsegner said he has three days to issue the building permit following the plan commission’s decision, and he would follow through on that order. He added he would also look into the legality of painting a city street for use as a business’ drive-up ordering lane.
Construction could start as soon as next week. The restaurant will stay open during construction.