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McCandless amendment would allow drive-through

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

McCandless administrators are deciding whether they should loosen up a restriction on part of McKnight Road that doesn't allow drive-through restaurants.

The change would allow only one drive-through: a Panera Bread proposed for inclusion in the fourth stage of the $100 million McCandless Crossing development.

AdVenture Development LLC of Selma, N.C., has applied for a zoning amendment to allow the drive-through at the proposed store, which would be part of what is known as a traditional neighborhood development overlay district that McCandless approved in April 2011.

Currently, drive-through restaurants are not permitted along McKnight from Pine Creek to Perrymont roads on McKnight's west side, and from McCandless Corporate Center on the east, said Bruce Betty, the township's land-use administrator.

McCandless officials' intent with the 1986 restriction was to prevent high-volume traffic and maintain the character of the stretch, he said.

“It's up to council to decide whether or not (an amendment) will detract from that,” Betty said.

The fourth phase of McCandless Crossing covers 40 acres on the east side of McKnight, bordered by Cumberland and Babock roads and Duncan Avenue.

Construction will get under way this summer on the phase, which will include 53 townhouses, a Cinemark movie theater, casual dining restaurants and other businesses, said Bob McGurk, project manager at AdVenture.

It will include a town center, meant to establish an area that people can walk around in getting to businesses and residences.

Warren, Ohio-based Covelli Enterprises, the largest Panera franchise in the country and which has many stores in the Pittsburgh region, has not signed a lease yet to open a Panera in McCandless Crossing, McGurk said.

Representatives from AdVenture and Covelli appeared at a public hearing on the McCandless zoning amendment Feb. 25 and a zoning committee meeting Monday.

Some council members said they were concerned over the amendment's potential negative effects, including traffic and having no control over the type of restaurant that might take Panera's place should it leave McCandless Crossing.

“I am opposed to the plan ... Despite how you spin it, it's a Panera ordinance,” Councilwoman Cynthia Potter said.

Betty said that there are limitations in the proposed amendment, such as requiring the drive-through business to be at least 4,400 square feet, which is twice the size of a typical fast-food restaurant. That would make it challenging for most fast-food businesses to occupy the space. The restaurant also must have a community room.

Of the 220 Panera franchises Covelli has in five states and Toronto, five have drive-throughs, Covelli spokesman Allen Ryan said.

The McCandless location would be the first with a drive-through in the Pittsburgh region, he said.

Panera gets 60 percent of its business between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 95 percent of those customers dine in, he said. Adding a drive-through wouldn't significantly change that volume, he said.

“We spend a lot of time and money on the interiors of these buildings so people can come in and stay,” he said.

Council will vote on the amendment on March 25.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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