Red Robin is planning its first location in York County.
Franchisee Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, Inc. has signed a letter of intent to open the gourmet burger restaurant in York Township as part of the development plan for the former Wright Brothers Lincoln Mercury property.
The York Township planning commission voted 3-1 to approve the Wright Brothers property land development plans, which include Red Robin, a 99-room Hampton Inn & Suites and a bank that hasn't been determined.
"This is a great redevelopment project," said Joshua George, an engineer with York-based Site Design Concepts.
The plans will transform a vacated, 5-acre parcel near the Queen Street exit to I-83 North into a site for the hotel, restaurant and bank behind a Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins and a Sunoco gas station.
Five access points will be created to the new development, including a flow of traffic among Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins, Sunoco and the new properties, George said.
"We believe it's critical to the success of the project to have as many access points as possible," he said.
But an entry point from South Queen Street through a Sunoco lot raised concerns from some planning commission members.
"Every time I drive past there I think it's ill conceived," said James Norton, secretary of the planning commission and an engineer by trade. "I can't imagine cutting through a convenience store to get to a hotel and restaurant."
Additional entry points are next to Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins on South Queen Street and along Pauline Drive, George said.
Owners of the Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins and Sunoco have given their approval - knowing it may lead to more business - and signed land development plans, he said.
"If a Hampton customer wants to fill their gas tank or get coffee, they won't have to go on public roads to get there," George said.
Though she approved the proposal, planning commissioner Sally Barnes said it sounded like a "traffic nightmare."
George said peak times at the gas station would be during morning and evening rush hours, and the traffic plans have been reviewed and approved by all township staff and traffic consultants.
After the planning commission's approval Tuesday night, the plans will go before the township's board of commissioners during their next meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 in the public meeting room of the York Township Administration Office, 190 Oak Road in Dallastown.
"We hope to obtain approval and hustle to a closing on the properties," said Dave Hogg, CEO of Springwood Companies, the developer for the site plans.
Upon approval, the former dealership and Make Believin' Costumes will be razed. Demolition would begin before Christmas, he said.
Make Believin' Costumes will relocate in January to 2709 S. Queen St.
Red Robin would be able to break ground in the spring, Hogg said.
The Colorado-based chain serves more than 24 fresh, gourmet burgers in a variety of recipes, according to the company website. It also offers salads, sandwiches, soups, entrees and more.
It wasn't immediately clear how many jobs will be created by the new restaurant, or other planned properties at the new development.
Red Robin had 34,000 employees throughout 464 locations in North America at the end of the fiscal year 2011, according to the website.
A location was previously planned for Red Lion in 2007, but those plans fell through.
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