It’s merely incidental that Starbucks is the business wanting to locate at the site of an old Waffle House Restaurant at Spur 63 and West Marshall Avenue.
It’s true the coffeehouse chain is known as a good corporate citizen and its business would almost certainly be successful at that location. But the same could be said of most Longview businesses.
The location is a prime one and, eventually, other companies are going to inquire about its availability. By standards of economic development, it will not long remain a vacant eyesore.
But there is a roadblock — actually, a city sign ordinance — preventing redevelopment at this busy intersection. That’s a shame, because no matter who winds up with this property, they will want removal of the towering, three-sided electronic billboard owned separately and apart by Lamar Advertising.
Lamar, understandably, doesn’t want to give up its billboard for nothing. It would like the opportunity to put up three single-sided electronic billboards in other parts of the city in exchange for removing the three-sided sign at Spur 63.
These are reasonable positions. Unfortunately, resolving the issue easily has become impossible because of the sign ordinance which, in our opinion, is not at all unreasonable.
That being said, the ordinance as it stands is blocking economic development that would be good not just for Longview’s coffee consumers but also those who never touch the stuff. Not only would a thriving new business bring in new tax receipts, but the improved intersection — and gateway into the city — will boost future development in the area.
We are not advocating scrapping the sign ordinance. Those rules and regulations do a lot for the city’s aesthetics. But we do not accept the notion the ordinance was passed with the intent of stopping development.
This situation provides impetus to reconsider the ordinance, to restructure and clarify it so the zoning board of adjustment is not required to make judgments on a patchwork of variances.
Economic development — especially when it comes with improving how the city looks — requires special consideration. The sign ordinance itself was at least partly intended to standardize and regulate signage to bring the city a better look. When a new business will achieve the same goal, it should be able to do that as well.
Swapping the three-sided monstrosity for three individual electronic billboards across the city does nothing to hurt Longview, and rehabilitating that intersection will bring about a world of good.
We encourage the city to allow the Starbucks-Lamar plan for redeveloping this intersection, and call for the city to revisit and amend the ordinance to try to prevent such a mess in the future.
When presented with roadblocks, some businesses will find another path — often, that is another city — where there are fewer hurdles to jump.
We don’t know where Mayor Andy Mack stands on this issue, but a plank in his election platform was that barriers to economic development in Longview should be removed. We agreed then, and we agree now.
The mayor offering direction in this case would be helpful, and we would like to see it.
This matter should come to a successful end, not because we need another coffee shop but because we need to move forward as a city. This would show that Longview can, indeed, do just that.