Dr. Trevor Nimmons doesn’t drink coffee, but he likes the idea of a Starbucks in his neighborhood.
And as the Indialantic Town Council continues to explore a change in ordinance that would allow Starbucks to move from its current location at 25 5th Ave. to the site of the old SunTrust Bank, residents living along Michigan Avenue, which borders the property, have taken sides.
At issue is Starbucks’ desire to add a drive-through – something the town allows – but not if it is less than 2,000 feet from an existing drive-through restaurant.
The SunTrust site at 500 N. Miramar Ave. is approximately 1,300 feet from Wendy’s at 205 S. Miramar Ave. Many of those who are against the change are concerned about increased traffic.
Nimmons has lived on Michigan Avenue for 15 years and while he understands his neighbors’ concerns, he believes Starbucks would make a good neighbor. He’s also concerned about the alternative. “There is a commercial lot that is empty and for sale, someone is going to buy it, something is going to be there,” Nimmons said. “Compared to a fast food restaurant like an Arby’s or a bar of some kind, Starbucks looks really good.”
In a Facebook post on April 20, Indialantic Mayor Dave Berkman expressed his support for Starbucks.
“Starbucks takes care of their properties, have been generous to our town and are trying to work with us to be a good partner,” he wrote.
He also pointed out that if Starbucks doesn’t purchase the property, “basically any other type of food service, bar, pizza, convenience store, etc. can move there right now without any changes from us and we can’t stop them.”
But John Murray, who also owns a home on Michigan Avenue, believes there is a better option.
“The traffic, especially during the season and holidays, will overload A1A and spill over into all the side streets to beat the traffic,” Murray said. “I want the public to know that Starbucks is not the only choice and if the ordinance is not modified, you never get a fast food franchise. We will have opportunities to get a bank again, a restaurant, office complex, etc.”
He points to the fact that a Publix is moving into the area soon – which he believes will already create additional traffic.
“We have a new Publix going to be built adjacent to the Path Shopping Center that will increase traffic tremendously. If you combine both projects, with the beach access and an already existing traffic issue, we will be sure to see drivers looking to beat the traffic lights and turn down the neighborhood streets,” Murray said.
“I know we are all law-abiding citizens; however, the speed limit is 20 miles per hour and by just current traffic avoiding the 15 miles per hour school-zone traffic, they fly down our street. Just think if they needed a cup of double espresso as well.”
Cheri Hart owns Aquarian Dreams, which sits catty corner on State Road A1A and First Avenue, right next to the property where Starbucks wants to relocate. Her family also owns a duplex on First Avenue.
She supports the Starbucks plan.
“Our customers at Aquarian Dreams are also supportive of Starbucks opening next door. They are excited about the opportunity to socialize and visit Starbucks after attending our yoga classes and events.” Hart said. “We feel Starbucks would be a conscientious addition to our beautiful little town and add to its warmth, charm and friendliness.”
In a January email to council members, Michael Paparella, the senior store development manager for Starbucks Florida, asked the town to consider changing the ordinance so they could relocate their current location to the SunTrust site, and add a drive-through.
The current Indialantic location was the first Starbucks to open in Brevard County. That was about 15 years ago, and Paparella said it represents “the old Starbucks as a cool little beach store.” But times have changed, and he said Starbucks is now focused on offering a drive-through at most outdoor locations.
He calls the current location “completely obsolete” because it’s too small and lacks proper seating and parking.
“We would build a state-of-the-art, much larger Starbucks with many more seats, all our latest equipment, and a much more upscale café seating area,” he wrote in part, adding “our customers demand drive-through convenience for times when they don’t have time to sit down. To continue to be successful we must offer them this option.”
During a meeting in March, the council reviewed Starbucks’ request. They were advised that Arby’s was also interested in the location for a non-drive-through restaurant. But staff recommended against changing the restriction.
“The agenda item to modify the code or consider modification of the code to reduce distance between restaurant drive-throughs failed to get a second,” Berkman said. “After much discussion I gained support to have the town manager and attorney evaluate options for consideration next month as to how Starbucks might be able to attain approval to build on the old SunTrust site.”
This isn’t the first time the issue has been raised. In 2014 when Dunkin’ Donuts expressed interest in opening an Indialantic location, the council addressed a change to the ordinance, but after they “discussed the negative impact this type of business could have on residential areas,” they agreed to keep the current restrictions in place.
After making some adjustments to the plan, in April the council was asked to consider changing the distance from 2,000 feet to 700 feet for a drive-through restaurant with a majority of total gross revenue from non-alcoholic beverages, as long as it also met other conditions including a loud-speaker system that faces away from residential areas, a buffer wall and a landscaped buffer strip. They are also required to undertake measures that ensure that no more than 25 percent of total daily motor vehicular traffic to and from the restaurant utilizes the streets within the residential zoning districts adjacent to the restaurant.
In a letter to council members written on Feb. 22, Paparella said “we would like to work with city staff and neighbors to create to create a site plan that enhances this portion of N. Miramar and ensures Starbucks can stay within the town limits for the long term.”
The town council meets this week to discuss the issue further.