Waffle Shoppe

A three-sided Lamar Advertising sign towers behind the former Waffle Shoppe restaurant at Marshall Avenue and Spur 63 in Longview. Starbucks wants to build on the corner, but city rules regarding the billboard are posing complications. Despite recent setbacks, developers say they’re “not walking away.”

Consultants wanting to add digital signs and redevelop the site of a vacant restaurant in Longview say they’re not giving up, despite a setback from a city panel this week.

“We’re not walking away,” Grant Gary, brokerage services president for The Woodmont Co., one of multiple firms trying to broker a multifaceted deal to build a $2 million Starbucks coffeehouse store at the site of the former Waffle Shoppe Restaurant.

The deal involves Lamar Advertising converting three existing billboard signs elsewhere in Longview into changeable-copy digital-face signs and taking down a three-sided billboard at the vacant restaurant site.

On Tuesday, however, the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment didn’t grant the variances Lamar needed for new digital signs.

“I think the key takeaway was, needless to say, we’re disappointed in the outcome,” Gary said in a conference with the News-Journal involving Lamar Advertising Vice President and General Manager Dan Noyes and John King Jr., owner and broker of JBK Enterprises of Longview.

The three men, along with Tyler planning consultant Mark Priestner, regrouped and weighed their options the morning after the Zoning Board denied Lamar a variance and permanently tabled two other variance requests.

“I think it’s a value-add solution for the city,” Gary said, “and I think that is something that has been conveyed and was conveyed (Tuesday) by the city — that they want to see this variance process approved.”

King said they want to consider all of their best paths forward and determine the path of least resistance to getting a deal done.

“We’re just finding the best avenue forward in response to” Tuesday, King said.

The potential tenant, identified by city records as Starbucks, wants the three-sided billboard removed from the restaurant site on the northeast corner of East Marshall Avenue and Spur 63, considered a prominent entryway into the city, developers have said.

At the intersection each day, nearly 30,000 drivers pass down Spur 63, and more than 27,000 drivers pass down Marshall Avenue, according to the city’s more recent traffic counts.

Developers say state traffic counters estimate the traffic at more than 80,000 drivers through the intersection.

“I wasn’t disappointed,” Noyes said about the ZBA’s decision.

“I was just confused, because I was pretty sure that I heard the sentiment from all parties there the desire that they want to see more development in Longview and reduce signage,” Noyes said, “and it seemed that this accomplished both aspects, so I was just a bit confused that everybody wasn’t for it.”

A Facebook page created by the developers about the redevelopment was inundated with comments, either through satire or complete seriousness, from people who expressed shock, anger and disappointment at the ZBA decision, King said.

He encouraged supporters of the project to reach out by phone or email to their City Council member, the mayor, Development Services Director Michael Shirley or City Planner Angela Choy.

“Everybody wants accountability and for their voices to be heard,” King said. “We’re not done.”

Two Longview City Council members said at the ZBA meeting Tuesday that they will ask colleagues on the seven-member council about possibly revisiting the sign ordinance.

No mention of the ordinance or the ZBA meeting was made during the council’s regular meeting Thursday.

Jimmy Daniell Isaac covers the city of Longview and Gregg County. Follow him on Twitter: @jimmyisaaclives.