¿Donde esta mi Taco Bell?
Truckee’s newest fast-food building project has been slow-going in the approval process.
Gary Lyon’s yet-to-be-built Taco Bell drive-thru restaurant project has been challenged by the Truckee Planning Commission’s increasingly strict standards ” caught between Truckee’s sign design requirements and the need to comply with corporate Taco Bell trademarks.
“I am between a rock and a hard spot,” said Lyon, who also owned the Taco Bell that was located in the Gateway Center.
Truckee and the town’s planning commission are raising the bar ever higher to keep Truckee unique. Lyon said he has been fighting to keep his project ” located near the Chevron and 76 gas stations, off the Interstate 80 Donner Pass Road exit ” ahead of the curve and meet Truckee’s architectural and design standards.
“It will be a one-of-a-kind (Taco Bell) building, highly modified. One of the most expensive Taco Bells ever built,” said Lyon, a part-time Truckee resident who owns other Taco Bells along Highway 20.
Truckee Associate Planner Denyelle Nishimori, responsible for the project for the town, agrees with Lyon on the building design.
“Taco Bell’s building is going to be a Taco Bell like you have never seen before,” she said.
Most recently, the Truckee Planning Commission denied Taco Bell’s revised sign and lighting plan, despite a Truckee town staff recommendation to approve the plan. The commission was concerned the signs would retain two of the Taco Bell trademark colors: magenta and purple.
“The planning commission has been setting higher standards for architecture. Now they want higher quality of signs to go with the higher quality of architecture,” Nishimori said.
The commissioners want more subdued, earth-tone colors, according to planning commission meeting minutes. There were also concerns about sign clutter not allowed by Truckee’s development code.
Calls to Truckee planning commissioners were not returned by press time.
Explaining the town sign design codes, Nishimori said “Signs need to be earth tone colors, and blend in with the building. The town wants things more natural, more subdued, with more blending.”
Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook said the planning department staff ” in contrast to the planning commission ” felt the sign plan was balanced, included quality signs, was integrated with the building architecture, while maintaining Taco Bell’s corporate identity.
The commission took it up another step beyond the planning department, he said.
“The commission didn’t agree, hence the decision to deny the signage,” he said. “I think the news is the commission is pushing harder. It will be interesting to see what happens. To see if the bar has moved or not.”
Lyon has appealed the planning commission’s decision to the Truckee Town Council. The appeal, originally scheduled for last week, will be heard during the council’s Oct. 20 meeting.
In appealing the commission’s decision to the town council, Lyon’s attorney Jim Porter stated that Taco Bell’s sign plan is consistent with the town development code.
The appeal also takes issue with the commission’s disapproval of Taco Bell’s trademark yellow, purple and magenta. This, according to the appeal, is in violation of the Lanham Act, a federal law that prohibits municipalities from requiring alterations of registered trademarks and service marks.
Porter’s appeal goes on to ask that the town council approve the sign and lighting plans as requested.
Lyon said he sees no imaginable way to get Taco Bell to change their trademark.
“What do I do? I am done at that point,” he said.
Lyon said he believes his project has been singled out by the commission to set an example.
“The commission is not being flexible and is demanding everything to the ‘T,’ plus some,” he said.
“It is not reasonable. For traffic to see you, you have to make it clear where you are. We want people to get off I-80 and find us, not go wandering around town looking for Taco Bell,” he said. “The development code is driving up costs with requirements that are far over any other community we are involved in.”
When asked if he thinks Truckee needs a Taco Bell, Town Manager Lashbrook said “yes.”
“The Taco Bell that was in the Gateway Center was very successful. My kids are sad it not still there,” he said.
Lashbrook went on to explain the Gateway Taco Bell didn’t have the same issues a drive-thru or stand-alone restaurant create in complying with Truckee zoning standards and design requirements ” the issues that Lyon is facing in his project.
The real issue is about Truckee’s long term economy and quality of life, Lashbrook said. If Truckee looks like every other place, it will not be a destination but just another town along I-80.
The right answer in the current situation should be based on balance, Lashbrook said.
“For the town, the really fair answer is going to be a balancing act. You have to look at the type, location, market ” all the factors in making a decision on signage,” he said. “At the same time, the investor has to factor in their choice of location. It cannot be the town’s job to make up for a poor choice of location with a variance on signage [policy].”
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