In-N-Out Burger is offering up a list of cosmetic changes to its initial proposal to build a new restaurant at Novato's Vintage Oaks Shopping Center, according to city officials.
The burger chain is to replace the closed-down Burger King at 216 Vintage Way on the west side of the shopping center and within eyesight of passing traffic on Highway 101.
In an answer to feedback from the Novato Design Review Commission on Sept. 19, In-N-Out made changes that were to be unveiled to the commission at a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 7) meeting at Novato City Hall. In-N-Out said it would move an outdoor dining area away from the drive-thru lane, realign a pathway to save an existing tulip tree, replace palm trees over the drive-thru lane with other trees, screen a trash receptacle enclosure with a bush and several other alterations.
"The revised plan is considered to be a notable improvement over the original landscaping proposal," city planner Steve Marshall wrote in a staff report. "In particular, the landscape plan now features plants of varying heights, textures, and massing, which give the project's landscape spaces a fuller, more vegetated appearance."
The city's Department of Public Works conducted a traffic study and did not identify any new issues, although it was required In-N-Out to submit a traffic handling plan for the grand opening. The planning department also requested drainage plans from a registered civil engineer to calculate expected storm runoff, and several other stipulations were added by the Novato Sanitary District, the North Marin Water District and the Novato Fire District.
In-N-Out is except from a California Environmental Quality Act review because it is replacing an existing building.
In-N-Out announced that it was targeting Novato for a new restaurant in April 2011. It pinpointed a spot in Ignacio, site of a garden center and adjacent oil changing shop, and presented its plan at a public workshop in August 2011. Neighbors in that area immediately spoke up about the noise, lighting and traffic that would cause problems at that location. Eric Lucan, then a candidate for Novato City Council (and eventually successful at wining a seat) wrote an opinion piece for Novato Patch about the pros and cons of having In-N-Out at that location.
In May, In-N-Out backed out of that plan and said it would continue to look for a prime location in Novato. It settled on Vintage Oaks because the company prefers high-visibility locations and looks for “dynamic, high activity areas near retail mass, freeway locations, major intersections and commercial shopping center pads,” according to company literature. It also likes “easy ingress/egress, ability to use our 'classic' image.”