chicken wings with sauce

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opeyes Louisiana Kitchen is (almost) officially moving into Cave Creek.

The Cave Creek Town Council unanimously approved Popeyes’ site plan as well as the first reading of the zone change request during a recent meeting. 

“This is a commercial area, and this is where the fast-food place belongs,” Vice Mayor David Smith said before the vote. 

Construction for Popeyes will likely begin in June or sooner, as long as the council approves the second reading of the zone change request at a future meeting, Planning Director Luke Kautzman said to the council. 

The estimated opening date for Popeyes is Oct. 15, according to a Popeyes representative who was present via Zoom during a planning commission meeting.

If approved, the approximately 2,300-square-foot single-story fast-food restaurant will be located south of the southeast corner of North Cave Creek and East Olesen roads, next to Burger King and across the street from Dutch Bros. Coffee.

This request and the site plan were submitted concurrently by the applicant, Tempe-based SBL Engineering LLC on behalf of HZ Props RE LTD., a Texas limited partnership, which operates as a restaurant. 

The exterior design will include the new “2020 NOLA image,” according to a letter submitted by Jennifer Smith on behalf of SBL Engineering LLC.

“The façade features visual breaks and material changes, which highlight exterior depth,” Smith wrote. “The building utilizes a bright and visually enticing color pallet that assists in providing a more unique and pleasing façade while maintaining the desired franchise look.”

Smith’s letter also mentions that “prefinished metal canopies” will be implemented into the exterior design to provide extra shade.

The fast-food restaurant will open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekends. 

Popeyes will have a drive-thru pickup window as well as 20 parking spaces. The parking areas will be designed to face away from adjacent residences to the south and east of the building, the case summary states. 

The Cave Creek Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the site plan as well as the zone change request during a meeting on Nov. 19. 

The zone change request seeks to change a 1-acre parcel of vacant land from desert rural to general commercial, according to the memorandum. 

The applicant prepared a native plant inventory and stated that any cactuses and trees that are salvageable will be used in the project’s overall landscape design, according to the case summary. Several trees were determined as not salvageable but will remain in place.

During the meeting, Kautzman said the landscape plan goes above and beyond what the town ordinances require for commercial properties in regard to the percentage of landscaped and undisturbed land.

“The landscape plan that was prepared for this project is actually one of the better landscape plans I’ve reviewed.”

The ingress and egress, or entry and exit ways for cars, will be located at the southernmost edge of the property. The applicant will be responsible for any potential right-of-way improvements that must be made. 

No public comments from surrounding property owners or the general public were received by the town staff, the case summary states. 

No public comments were issued during the meeting either; however, a comment card in favor of the development was issued by Jennifer Smith. It’s unclear if this is the same Smith representing the application. 

The development’s water recourses will be accommodated by the city of Phoenix, as the property falls within its water service area. The development will connect to the town’s wastewater system, however, as the property is located within its service area.

The applicant is responsible for all “hook up” and “tap in” arrangements to the town’s wastewater system.

The site plan and zone change request were presented to the council for discussion only during the Dec. 7 town council.

During this meeting, Councilmember Kathryn Royer raised concerns about another unhealthy fast-food restaurant opening in town 

“We’ve become more and more of a fast-food town with the development along Carefree Highway now, and not everyone is crazy about that in town,” she said. 

She asked Kautzman if the council has any power over managing growth and determining “our future with respect to providing healthy options for our community if we don’t want our town to look like Bell Road, as a lot of people are saying.”

Kautzman replied and explained Carefree Highway will never look like Bell Road because of the zoning ordinances and restrictions that are in place. 

Mayor Ernie Bunch explained this specific area where the property is located is primarily reserved for the goods and services the town does not want in the historic core.

“When you think about Cave Creek, you have to look at the entire doughnut,” Kautzman said, addressing Royer’s comments. “Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road is right in the middle of the doughnut that serves the community far outside of the town of Cave Creek’s municipal borders.”