Everybody agreed yesterday that allowing a new restaurant near Gorsuch Road and Route 140 would bring more traffic to a congested intersection, but the county planning and zoning commission approved the plans anyway.
The argument that the intersection would remain congested whether or not the restaurant is built proved persuasive for the commission, which voted 4 to 2 to approve plans for a 6,020-square-foot Olive Garden restaurant with 126 parking spaces on 2.3 acres next to Westminster Elks Club.
Despite improvements planned by the state and the developer, the intersection is "never going to be above D" on a scale from A to F, said Frank G. Schaeffer, chief of the county Bureau of Development Review. "For better or worse, this is what we have," he told the commission.
The intersection is rated E during peak evening hours and is projected to have a rating of E to F once the restaurant is operational, Schaeffer said. It is rated C on Saturdays, but is likely to be rated D on Saturdays later.
The developer has agreed to build an additional lane on Gorsuch Road to allow right turns onto Route 140. But Westminster officials wanted more.
"We believe that as a minimum an additional northbound lane must be provided along Gorsuch Road for at least the distance of this site's frontage," Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard told the planning commission in a letter given members yesterday.
The city's concern that an adverse traffic impact will occur as result of the restaurant and the "poor configuration of entrances into this site in conjunction with those into surrounding sites" is mostly a concern about existing conditions, said Clark R. Shaffer, the developer's attorney.
City officials said they also were concerned about traffic generated by new Westminster elementary and high schools planned north of the restaurant site and by the potential development of nearby commercial property owned by the Church of the Open Door.
But school system planner Kathleen Sanner blunted that argument, saying: "The good thing about the [school property] is that there are so many ways to get to the site." Buses will not have to negotiate Gorsuch Road-Route 140 bottleneck, she said.
The original site plan was for a Red Lobster restaurant. But GMRI Inc. of Orlando, Fla., which owns the seafood and Italian-style restaurant chains, decided on Olive Garden after a marketing study, Shaffer said. The original plans were modified slightly to accommodate a different restaurant, he said.
Pub Date: 1/22/97