So long, McDonald’s sign

Anyone approaching Waynesville from Russ Avenue has likely appreciated the distant view of downtown, its quaint brick skyline marked by steeples and nested in the surrounding mountains — along with the less appealing gigantic yellow “M” superimposed over the scene.

The looming McDonald’s sign will soon be coming down, however. McDonald’s plans to redevelop its property — basically from scratch — and therefore must come into compliance with the town’s new land-use plan. Aesthetic appeal and pedestrian-friendly design will be tantamount to the new design.

“It’s fiscally tough to meet all the standards, but we understand Waynesville doesn’t want to look like every other community,” said Craig Justice, an attorney representing McDonald’s as it seeks building permits from the town.

The first hurdle for Justice was sorting out a new entrance for McDonald’s off Russ Avenue. The land-use plan limits business entrances along Russ Avenue to every 150 feet, requiring neighboring businesses to share access. The land-use plan also prohibits left-hand turns into and out of businesses. Both are intended to keep traffic moving and reduce accidents.

McDonald’s currently has two entrances, both of which can accommodate left turns. Making a left-turn into or out of McDonalds — or any Russ Avenue business — on a Friday afternoon in tourist season is often hopeless. There were three wrecks in front of McDonalds on Russ Avenue last week alone, according to Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed.

McDonald’s new building will only get one entrance, and it will be curved in a way that only allows right-hand turns into the parking lot from Russ Avenue and right-turns back out onto Russ Avenue.

Long-range plans for Russ Avenue call for a road running behind all the businesses. This would allow fast-food customers to sneak along behind the buildings on the back access road to get their burgers without creating traffic back-ups along the main route.

“It’s really hard to retrofit an existing street with an established traffic pattern, but we’re plugging away at it,” said Paul Benson, town planner.

The town has received a $40,000 grant to hire a traffic engineer and consultant to develop a long-range plan for Russ Avenue.

Once McDonald’s gets a drive-way officially approved by the town board of aldermen, it will refine the design of the building and lot and seek approval from the town’s Community Appearance Commission and the town planning board, which are charged with reviewing and approving building plans for compliance with the land-use plan.

The new McDonald’s will have to have trees in its parking lot, landscaping around its building and sidewalks. The sign will have to come down and be replaced by a smaller, eye-level sign. Parking will have to go in back of the building and the façade will be moved closer to the street, a requirement that will one day create a uniform plane — known as a street wall — for a more pedestrian feel.

Next door to McDonald’s, a new CVS Pharmacy became the first building on Russ Avenue’s commercial strip to meet the new land-use plan. When the land-use plan was passed, its proponents said Russ Avenue could one day be an attractive boulevard as old buildings redevelop and new ones come along. It appears that’s beginning to happen sooner rather than later.

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