Subway restaurant proposal gets approval from Watertown council

The property at 617 Jefferson Avenue, which is currently home to the Watertown Fuel and Food Gas station and Subway restaurant, will be subdivided to allow for a new Subway and retail/office facility on the currently vacant northern half of the property. (News staff photo by Matt Bunke)

The property at 617 Jefferson Avenue, which is currently home to the Watertown Fuel and Food Gas station and Subway restaurant, will be subdivided to allow for a new Subway and retail/office facility on the currently vacant northern half of the property. (News staff photo by Matt Bunke)

Subway will be staying in Watertown, and it won’t be moving far.

After more than a year of uncertainty following the city council’s April 2012 decision to not allow a new Subway building on a parcel of land adjacent to Highland Park — a parcel the city later purchased -— the council last week approved the site plan for a new Subway restaurant right next to its current location.

Owner Steve Erhard had suggested last year that he may move his story to Mayer after his first proposal was denied.

“Citizens were constantly asking me, ‘is Subway leaving Watertown?’,” Mayor Charlotte Johnson said. “Now we can officially say that no, Subway is staying.”

The roughly 6,000-square foot building will include a 2,200-square foot space for Erhard’s Subway restaurant, as well as about 4,000 square feet of additional leasable retail or office space. It will be located on Jefferson Avenue, between the Watertown Evangelical Free Church and the restaurant’s current location at the Watertown Fuel and Food gas station.

The property at 617 Jefferson Ave., which includes the gas station on the south end of the property and a vacant space on the northern side, will be subdivided to allow for the new retail building on the northen half. The property isn’t perfect for Erhard’s new building -— several revisions had to be made to his original plans in order to fit the building and it’s parking lots into the available space — but Erhard said he believes the final product will still turn out well.

The city council granted several variances regarding setbacks from property lines to help accommodate the parking lots and driveways surrounding the building.

“I think it’s put together pretty well,” Erhard said of the site plan. “You have to work with what’s given to you. … I think it’s going to come out pretty nice. We’re going to make sure we detail it as best as we can so it accents the community and is an asset to Watertown.”

The building is proposed to be constructed of a combination of rock faced masonry blocks, brick and stucco, and will have a maximum height of 20 feet. There will be 45 parking spaces, as well as a drive around the building that will include a drive through window for the Subway restaurant.

The new building will be accessed by a driveway onto Highway 25 on the north side of the property, and a drive will also be constructed between the new building and the gas station next door. Regulations regarding the distance of propane tanks from driveways will require the propane tank at the gas station to be moved a few feet to accommodate the new drive, and Subway has agreed to move the tank.

While the new building itself follows all city ordinances regarding setbacks from property lines, city law also requires the parking lots to meet the same setbacks. In order for those setbacks to be met in this case, the building would have needed to be significantly reduced in size, and the flow of traffic around the building would have been compromised.

In order to accommodate the parking, the city council granted variances allowing the front setback to be reduced from 35 to 10 feet, the rear setback to be reduced from 20 feet to 10 feet, and the south setback to be reduced from 10 feet to 5 feet.

Erhard’s original proposal, presented to the city council in April 2012, was for a similar retail building at 804 Hutchinson Road, on the corner of Hutchinson Road and Highway 25, beyond the outfield fence at Highland Park. Erhard’s deal to purchase that property was contingent upon the city approving the site plan and rezoning the property from residential to commercial.

However, in order for that rezoning to occur, the city first would have needed to amend its 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which guided the property as Parks and Open Space. Ultimately, the city council voted 3-2 against amending the Comprehensive Plan, thus killing Erhard’s proposal and leading him to consider moving his store to Mayer. The city later puchased the property as an addition to Highlad Park.

Only two members of the current city council were part of the city council at that time. Both of those councilors voted in favor of amending the Comprehensive Plan to allow for Erhard’s first proposal in 2012.

The city and Erhard have worked since that time to find a suitable location, finally landing on the current plan. The city council this time approved the proposal unanimously, and Johnson thanked Erhard for his patience during the meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10.

“Thank you for hanging in there,” she said. “I am so happy that this project has come to a conclusion. … I know this has been a challenge for you.”

Erhard admitted the whole process has been a challenge, but told the city council he’s excited to move forward, and wants his store to be beneficial to the community.

“It’s been a challenge,” he said. “I just want to assure you that we’re coming in with a strong exclamation point. It’s going to be a good store.”

 

Contact Matt Bunke at matt.bunke@ecm-inc.com

 

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