QUESTION: I heard a Starbucks might locate on Gilmer Road near locally owned coffee shops. Is this true? Why is this being allowed?

ANSWER: Confession: This is an Answer Line question that Answer Line asked herself after seeing social media response to the Business Beat column a couple of weeks ago. In that column, I wrote about what could be Longview’s fourth freestanding Starbucks. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved a request this month for a specific use permit for a restaurant with a drive-thru window at Gilmer and Toler roads. The request was from a developer who works with Starbucks to locate the corporately owned stores. Starbucks would be on the same side of the road, and about a block away, from the Coffee Mill on Gilmer Road. Evergreen Coffee Shop also is less than a mile away at 1111 Evergreen.

When I saw some of the social media discussions about the approval, I thought it made sense to address some of the issues mentioned here in Answer Line, so here goes:

The property where the Starbucks would locate was already zoned general retail. Coffee shops may locate in general retail zoning under the city’s rules. No special permission is needed.

However, a specific use permit is required to have a drive-thru window, and that is what the developer had requested. Now that the Planning and Zoning Commission has approved the request, the City Council is expected to consider the permit along with other planning and zoning commission actions at its April 8 meeting.

I appreciated City Planner Angela Choy explaining to me that the purpose of a specific use permit is to ensure that a drive-thru window “has no negative impact” on the surrounding properties. For instance, there is a residence located on property behind this site (on land that’s also zoned general retail). Because of that, Choy said city staff asked the project’s developer for more “buffering” than what would normally be required — an 8-foot solid wooden fence instead of the normal 6-foot fence between the two properties. The city also is requiring the store to erect a sign that says cars may not stack up into Gilmer Road.

The request for the specific use permit for a drive-thru window is a “standard” one the city sees quite a bit, Choy said. Gilmer Road is a major thoroughfare with a lot of drive-thru windows at restaurants in that area.

Separately, I’ll point out the city’s new Unified Development Code addresses standards for “stacking,” or parking, for cars in drive-thru window lanes. Those standards will require 10 spaces for cars from the drive-thru window back.

Q: Any news on the downtown Longview post office opening, please?

A: It could be open again within a couple of weeks. (Thanks for asking. I’ve been missing my favorite post office.)

Our crazy winter storm in February left the 1939 building with water damage. It’s been closed since that time for repairs.

“Upon completion of repairs, we anticipate the downtown post office could resume normal operations within the next 10 days, barring any unforeseen delays, such as weather conditions. We appreciate the patience of our customers during this time,” said Albert Ruiz, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.

TAX PREPARATION UPDATE: While the IRS gave us Texans until June 15 to file our taxes because of the winter storm, the local AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program will wrap up April 15. Local coordinator Don Martin told me there still are appointments available, 12:30-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday at Wesley-McCabe United Methodist Church, at 1115 S. Mobberly Ave. in Longview. Call Martin between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (903) 238-3523 for appointments.

The Greater Longview United Way also offers free tax help for households that earned $60,000 or less in 2020. No more in-person tax preparation appointments are available. However, the organization offers a drop-off service, with an April 10 deadline for people to drop off all their necessary paperwork to the United Way office at 310 S. Fredonia. Visit www.longviewunitedway.org/dropofftaxprep for information about the necessary documents, call (903) 236-9211 or email info@longviewunitedway.org.

Taxpayers also may complete their own taxes free of charge by visiting www.myfreetaxes.com through the tax deadline.

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