vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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Panera Bread gets OK for location off U.S. 17 with drive-through

A Panera Bread with a drive-through window off U.S. 17 got the OK from the Planning Commission Wednesday evening.

Panera proposed a 4,000-square-foot facility in front of the Carter’s Crossing shopping center, anchored by Target.

A conditional use permit is the restaurant’s biggest hurdle. It goes to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on Dec. 18. The surrounding area is all commercial, zoned in 1978. The site is already cleared and graded.

Read about a public incentives package for the restaurant here.

Much of the discussion at Wednesday’s meeting focused on a stipulation about deliveries from trucks, along with questions about traffic flow into the site. A new access road will come off South Gateway Drive and be parallel to the proposed drive-through.

Scott Little, vice president and director of development for the Silver Cos., said there’s a sense of urgency on getting the CUP approved to allow the drive-through.

“For some time, we’ve been hopeful that a use like Panera Bread would come along to the Carter’s Crossing shopping center. Times being what they are, we’re thrilled they’re here and interested in the site,” said Little. A steakhouse was once interested in the site, but that fell through.

Deliveries are scheduled for before and after the restaurant is open, but there could be extenuating circumstances. “It would be a little bit out of their control when a driver could show up a little bit late,” Little said.

In the end, commissioners modified the proffers to say that Panera needs a policy to ensure that deliveries were scheduled for non-business hours and that they would take less than 30 minutes. Drive-through signs are also supposed to be consistent with what was proposed Wednesday. Another was related to traffic on the unnamed access road.

The corner lot used to be the most envied because of its visibility off U.S. 17, but now, the lot has a confusing traffic flow.

Commissioner James Schwartz noted that the drive-through at the Panera in Central Park was retrofitted to the restaurant. “I will tell you, it’s not ideal,” said Silver’s Chris Hornung, vice president of planning and engineering.