The Auburn City Council approved a conditional use request that will bring a Guthrie's to the corner of North College Street and Glenn Avenue.
The Planning Commission narrowly approved a recommendation for the use by a 5-4 vote at its meeting last week. The council also approved the use by a 5-4 vote, with council members Steven Dixon, Kelley Griswold, Bob Parsons and Connie Fitch Taylor voting against the resolution.
The main objection to the project was the inclusion of a drive-thru on the north side of the property, which some noted went against the vision for the Urban Core laid out in the Downtown Master Plan.
"I worried about safety for students and safety for people downtown," said Auburn resident Scott Berson during the public hearing.
Mark Meagher, whose family owns two of the three lots included in the proposed redevelopment of the existing building, asked the council to consider the long-standing ties to Auburn of his family, the Mason family, which owns the other lot, and the Guthrie family, whose business home office is located in Auburn.
"This property has been in our family for five generations, and we would like to continue that into a sixth generation," he said. "We need to preserve at least some of the legacy of our village past with locally owned, locally run family businesses like Guthrie's.
"I would love for my children and grandchildren's generation to forever remember this location as where Guthrie's was located. That is the legacy that the Meagher family, the Mason family and Guthrie family would like to leave Auburn when we pass this property on to our heirs, helping to forever maintaining the image of Auburn as the Loveliest Village on the Plains."
Parker Lewis of Hydro Engineering Solutions explained that the drive-thru would be mostly shielded from view of the right-of-way and that Guthrie's plans to make the site its flagship location in Auburn. He also said he expects that 90 percent of the restaurant's business would come from walk-up traffic.
Planning Director Forrest Cotten said Planning staff struggled with its decision to recommend approval.
"This was a tough call for the Planning Department to make. I fully admit that. We really agonized over this case," he said. "But at the end of the day, we felt we were fortunate that where the drive-thru is currently is actually about as ideal as you can get. We're sitting with an empty building that's been empty for some time.
"I think given the location and given the options, it's probably about as good as we could hope for."