Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Despite more than a dozen people speaking out against it, the City of Columbia's Board Zoning of Appeals (BOZA) voted Tuesday to approve a special exception to allow a drive-through restaurant in the former Harper's location in Five Points.
The question comes after Harper's Restaurant abruptly closed in April and local Zaxby's franchise owners proposed a Zaxby's location at the 700 Harden Street location. However, City of Columbia zoning ordinance §17-258 (6) requires a special exception from the the Board of Zoning and Appeals for any new drive-through.
On November 13, Jim Poston with Back Forty Holdings applied for a special exception to establish drive-through for a new Zaxby's at the lower Five Points location.
The Five Points Association has said that the drive-through would change the character of the area.
The Board of Zoning and Appeals met Tuesday morning to consider the application, in addition to other business.
Attorney Joe Fuller, representing the Zaxby's franchise, argued to the board that the restaurant would have no impact on the businesses near it. He said Harper's is gone, and there’s no other sit-down restaurant has expressed interest in the location.
One of the Zaxby's franchise owners also spoke out at the meeting, saying they haven't had any issues with their other drive-through window traffic spilling out into roadways.
The owner of the property in question told the board he has had two real restaurant offers, and both of them were drive-through restaurants.
"I thought this was the best thing for five points, mainly because we are keeping the building and we're keeping everything that Harper's was," says Joe Scarborough, property owner. "As far as the drive-through, you'll never know that it's there."
Toby Ward, an attorney in Five Points, spoke out against the proposed exception, saying the Five Points Chick-fil-A was grandfathered in having been a former Hardee’s and the Cook Out is located in the upper Five Points area.
Dick Harpootlian, a local attorney who says he lives near Five Points, said he’s not against Zaxby’s, but he believes a traffic study is needed. Harpootlian said he believes the drive-thru restaurant would add more traffics to the lower Five Points area. "We are fighting desperately to make sure this remains a neighborhood area,” Hartpootlian said. "We intend on filing an appeal to the circuit court as soon as we get a written order."
House representative Kirkman Finlay, who own another Five Points restaurant, said additional restaurants could add to traffic but won’t hurt Five Points character. In fact, Finlay argued that more traffic in the could increase business.
Five Points Association executive director Amy Beth Franks argued a drive-thru will hurt the area, specifically, the lower Five Points Area.
"I appreciate Zaxby's desire to become a part of the neighborhood that I work day in and day out to protect and I welcome them to come into our neighborhood, but what I can't let happen without speaking to you all, is a drive-through coming in and impacting the community that we all work for," says Franks.
"It goes against a master plan that was passed by city council back in 2006 and I think this is a major blow to the village feel in Five Points," says Seth Rose, Richland County Councilman.
In the end, the board voted in favor of the exception.