BLACKFOOT – Members of the McDonald’s Corporation, management, and the engineering firm they hired to design and draft a renovated and moved version of the local location presented their plan to the Blackfoot Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night.
The nearly 100-foot tall sign that is currently located next to Bergener Boulevard would need to be moved approximately 80 feet from where it is currently mounted after the remodel of the location according to the representative of Kimley-Horn, the company contracted to design the restaurant.
The company said it has double-checked all of its information and gone through due diligence to ensure that their application for a sign variance would be approved. They had an FAA study conducted to ensure the sign would not be a hazard for the Blackfoot airport and during their presentation, they also showed images of the current location of the sign makes it hard to see from within a mile of the interstate exit approach on both the north and southbound lanes.
McDonald’s has conducted studies that depict that somewhere between 15-20 percent of their income is from off-the-cuff motorists traveling interstate corridors. Because of this income from having the signage, they want to ensure that the sign can continue to be as tall as it is post-remodel because the mature vegetation and trees along the interstate make it virtually impossible to see if they required the applicant to adhere to Blackfoot’s current sign standards of 60 feet maximum.
The original sign was grandfathered in as it was installed before the city developed a sign code and allowing it to stay standing as long as it is not altered.
The conundrum at this point is the proverbial fork in the road for McDonald’s; if they do not get the sign variance, their corporate office does not want to go forward with the renovation and remodel of the current location. Without the remodel and renovation taking place, the two-lane drive through that they have been practicing during the COVID season and moving the start of their drive through lane further into the parking lot has increased efficiency, according to the store manager, and has allowed them to employ 80 local residents. The remodel would allow them to have permanent two-lane drive through and they would be adding 20 more employees, mostly full-time.
Following the presentation, the commission opened the floor for those in favor, neutral, or against the applicant. Jeff Nye was the only one who spoke, and he was in favor of the variance. He explained that he feels that the remodel and the new entrance location justifies the variance because the current setup is not safe or friendly and a good-looking new McDonald’s wouldn’t be bad either. After Nye spoke, the commission went into discussion.
Vice Chair Debbie Barlow started by expressing concern that the remodel calling for the movement of the sign does not fit the classification for a necessity to allow the variance and stayed in opposition of allowing the variance to pass. Each member of the board in attendance spoke about similar beliefs of the code and felt the variance would not be the right fit, and ultimately the item would fail on the floor.
The rejection of the variance led to the next issue to be addressed by McDonald’s who moved asking for a code change. The code change would create a signing district along the interstate of no less than 1,750 feet from the on and off ramps to allow signage to be taller than the 60 feet maximum currently in the code. The request from McDonald’s and their engineering firm that they retained would also open the signing to other local businesses in that area to have taller signs to be seen from I-15.
The item gained ground quickly among the members of the commission and it will be discussed and open for public hearing in the future. The new signage code for the interstate impacted area will be decided in the next meeting.
McDonald’s will receive an extended time to appeal based on the potential sign code change, as noted by city Attorney Garrett Sandow.