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In-N-Out clears hurdle with planning commission

The Urban Area Planning Commission unanimously approved minor modifications to the facade of the highly anticipated In-N-Out Burger building Wednesday night, giving a nod to the windows-and-walls design that departs slightly from the city's building requirements.

Although approval of the variances themselves wasn't contentious among the commissioners, another facet of In-N-Out's construction was — the potential for traffic congestion on Morgan Lane in north Grants Pass where the restaurant will be built.

"I understand the traffic problems at Panda Express are so awful," Commissioner Lois MacMillan said, referring to the opening earlier this year of the Asian-cuisine restaurant in east Grants Pass. "That does bring up the fact that when we look at In-N-Out Burger, we don't want that happening."

The problems at Panda Express involve cars backing up into the Winco grocery store parking lot and spilling onto Grants Pass Parkway. Gerard Fitzgerald, the Planning Commission chairman, didn't share the concern.

"Try not to look into your crystal ball," Fitzgerald told MacMillan during the meeting. "It's not going to be foretold. It's going to be whatever shows up after it's open, and what happens on Morgan and Sixth and Seventh streets is going to be whatever happens."

Although traffic engineers on the In-N-Out project have offered solutions to mitigate traffic around the new location, other commissioners shared MacMillan's concerns.

"I don't think the right answer is to say, 'Well, we can't have a crystal ball. We can't figure it out,' " said Jim Coulter, vice chairman of the Urban Area Planning Commission. "We have to work together on it to come up with something that works for our citizens and our businesses."

Coulter added that some things can be adjusted in the city's development code that prevent long traffic lines from forming around popular restaurants and other businesses.

"We have an opportunity to look at it so we don't start a trend," Coulter explained. "Let's go into our goal-setting and strike this while it's hot."

The restaurant will be constructed on the site of a former Shell gas station, adjacent to the lot formerly occupied by the Royal Vue Motel, where a new Hampton Inn is planned.

— Reach reporter Madeline Shannon at 541-474-3813 or mshannon@thedailycourier.com.