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Sun, Dec. 08

P&Z OKs site plan for Olive Garden<BR>restaurant

PRESCOTT – A "key step" in the development of an Olive Garden Italian Restaurant in Prescott occurred Thursday when the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the site plan for the business.

Although they had questions about traffic flow, commissioners sent the site plan on to the Prescott City Council for final review. The site plan should be on a council agenda on May 18 and 25.

Architect Steve Hail, representing Olive Garden at the meeting, said the commissioners' endorsement was crucial in getting the restaurant on track in the construction schedule.

After the meeting, Hale was uncertain when construction actually would begin on the restaurant that will be located in the Wal-Mart Center near the corner of Highway 69 and Prescott Lakes Parkway.

"It's a little difficult to say right now," Hale said of the time schedule. "With this approval, it will go to the (company's) executive committee, which will make the determination of how quickly (the project can begin). This was a key step."

The site plan proposes that the restaurant will consist of about 7,600 square feet of space, and will have seating capacity for 267 people.

A synthetic stone will cover the exterior of the building to create a "Tuscan farmhouse theme," Hale said. He added that the textured look would "blend in very well with the natural landscape."

The restaurant likely will be open from 11 a.m. until about 10 or 11 p.m., and will employ about 25 to 27 people.

Commissioner Richard Rosa, who served as chairman in the absence of George Wiant, voiced concerns about the traffic congestion that he said could occur at the site.

Although he prefaced his remarks by saying that Olive Garden is his "most favorite restaurant," Rosa added that he has "some real heartburn about the amount of traffic."

"Even now, it gets pretty hairy in there," Rosa said of the Wal-Mart parking lot. "With the opening of the (adjacent) In-N-Out Burger, I think we're going to be creating quite a problem."

City staff members pointed out that the original agreement on the Wal-Mart Center limited the number of exits onto Highway 69. Therefore, all of the Olive Garden traffic will have to enter and leave through the existing parking lot entrances.

Even so, city planner George Worley said the situation should "adequately handle the flow."

In response to a question from the commission about whether the city could allow a right-turn-only exit onto Highway 69, Worley pointed out that "it is ADOT's (Arizona Department of Transportation) recommendation not to have any more traffic exiting onto Highway 69."

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