The fate of an Olive Garden planned to be located along Interstate Highway 35, next to a residential neighborhood, was decided at the Tuesday city council meeting.
Approval of a Conditional Use Permit was already given to the Olive Garden by council members, allowing the restaurant’s operation, but the city leaders considered appealing the permit due to traffic complaints by residents of the nearby Sunset Acre neighborhood.
During the public discussion, some residents said they favored the presence of Olive Garden because the restaurant is more “family-friendly” than the Hooters restaurant that sought approval to locate there in 2015.
Residents expressed concern that the locale would bring more traffic to the area.
San Marcos resident Robert Jack, said he is opposed to drivers entering and exiting the restaurant’s property on Hays Street, cutting through the Sunset Acre neighborhood.
“It doesn’t take many cars to fill the street from the exit to Hays Street all the way to the light at Highway 123,” Jack said. “Our neighborhood suffers irreparable damage because of all the traffic and our inability to get out of our driveways.”
Drivers take routes through the neighborhood to avoid the traffic of IH-35 and SH-123, residents said. Homeowners struggle to pull out of their driveway because of congestion.
Estella Enriquez, a Sunset Acre resident, said she was traffic blocked her from exiting the neighborhood when she had to urgently take her father to the hospital.
Keith Moore, Olive Garden representative, said he is willing to cooperate with city officials.
Olive Garden visitors using the Hays Street exit will be customers from those neighborhoods, Moore said. Moore agreed with council members that signage pointing restaurant customers towards the highway exits should be placed on Hays Street.
Councilwoman Lisa Prewitt, Place 1, suggested prohibiting thru traffic on Hays Street. Council members presently discarded the idea because it would require a traffic study to be completed.
Moore said he is in favor of erecting a sign at the back of the parking lot, asking customers not to use the exit into the Sunset Acre neighborhood.
Council members voted to grant the restaurant its permit under certain conditions. The city will place the sign on Hays Street while Olive Garden representatives will place one on its property.
Eighteen-wheeler trucks delivering to the restaurant will not be allowed to use the residential back exit.
Councilwoman Jane Hughson, Place 4, suggested the issue of traffic in the neighborhood be discussed separately at another meeting.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on in that neighborhood,” Prewitt said.
Council members agreed to discuss the issue at a later date to alleviate traffic for residents.