Clay Eiland is no stranger to the DFW coffee scene. He has been selling Eiland Coffee Roasters coffee and roasting for local shops for nearly two decades. He and his employees work out of their roastery in Richardson, which is coupled with a small cafe. Eiland says coffee shops were meant to be a place for people to get together, not some one-stop-shop where patrons can come and go in a matter of minutes. He wants to bring back this sentiment with an expansion to a second location. Although he bought the property for his expansion two years ago, the most recent vote by the Richardson City Council did not approve of all of Eiland’s plans. Only two council members voted in favor, leaving Eiland Coffee four votes short of approval.
Having dealt with surrounding cities, Eiland says Richardson has been good to local businesses. The city doesn’t want to put up a million roadblocks for people looking to start businesses, he says. But Eiland has been fighting Richardson City Council for approval over the addition of a drive-thru and an off-site parking lot at the facility. Both of these deviate from what is called the West Spring Valley Planned Development.
“You’re always going to have someone that disagrees and that’s OK, but it is overwhelming the amount of people that are for this,” Eiland says. “That’s the key.”
Since he bought the land, which is currently the site of a closed-down, dilapidated Pancho's Mexican Buffet building, Eiland had been taking his time to plan out the new concept.
“We’re building this to be our home for a long time, so we want to make sure we get it right,” he says.
Finally, after two years, Eiland was ready to move forward with the plans for the new location. It is meant to be cutting edge. Eiland says there is nothing like it Texas. His plan is for a three-story facility, which would house a larger cafe, a restaurant, administrative offices and another roastery with updated technology.
However, Eiland Coffee has been dealing with opposition over concerns about insufficient parking and the possibility of traffic congestion caused by the drive-thru ever since the company initiated planning and zoning processes with the city. These concerns were alive and well at the City Council’s vote Jan. 14, which was prompted by letters from over 20 percent of business owners in the area who oppose the project. Ahead of the meeting, 90 letters and a 228-signature petition in favor of the Eiland expansion were sent to the council. Seven letters were sent in opposition. Concerns over odors produced by the roastery were raised in some of the letters opposing Eiland Coffee. While there are not any legal obligations for Eiland to do so, he said an afterburner scrubber would be incorporated to disperse odors.
Michael Spicer, director of development services for the city of Richardson, said the drive-thru lane would accommodate nine vehicles without disrupting entry to the site and without blocking the five on-site parking spaces on the north side of the new facility. While street parallel parking will not be provided, the off-site parking lot would be able to accommodate an additional 57 vehicles. Only 48 parking spaces are required under the current zoning, Spicer said.
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Council member Marta Frey was worried about traffic once the drive-thru lane exceeded nine vehicles. She also pointed out that 41 of the letters in support of the Eiland Coffee project were not from residents of Richardson. Some were from Dallas, Plano and as far as Canada, she said. Scott Dun, another council member, noted that the adjacent Richardson Restaurant Park was prohibited from including drive-thrus and said he did not understand why the council should approve one for Eiland’s new location.
However, council member Mabel Simpson said drive-thrus were more of a concern for the restaurant park because it was near a residential area, unlike the proposed coffee facility, which is in a more commercial area. Additionally, Eiland says a drive-thru makes sense for the new location and would actually help alleviate traffic. He says the building was redesigned to include more room for cars and an exit strategy for patrons wanting to leave the cafe.
Eiland Coffee is very community oriented, he says, and the people are on his side. Despite his efforts and support from people in Richardson and surrounding areas, the City Council denied Eiland’s application. However, they encouraged him to come back with a revised plan or a proposal for another site. The Eilander crew released a statement on Facebook in the days following the vote.
“Quick update is that we did not get approved. We are hopeful though,” the post read. “This is not the end. Thank you for supporting us through it all.”