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City panel rejects proposal for new Lizard’s Thicket restaurant on Elmwood

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A city panel on Thursday rejected plans to build a new Lizard’s Thicket restaurant on Elmwood Avenue, a main corridor into downtown Columbia.

The Design/Development Review Commission voted 4-2 to side with a staff recommendation to deny the request because plans do not comply with City Center Design Guidelines.

Lizard's Thicket is seeking city approval to build a new restaurant at its current Elmwood Avenue location. (Image/Provided)Documents show that the owner, Williams Partnerships, wants to raze the present building at 818 Elmwood and build a new restaurant. The new 5,700-square-foot structure would essentially be a one-story building with a two-story false façade facing Elmwood, according to plans submitted by architect Ted Talmage.

The plans also show that the new restaurant would have 59 parking spaces and be operated as a dine-in restaurant with a drive-through facility. The building’s exterior would feature brick and Hardi-plank covering.

Talmage told the commission a new building was proposed for the site because the existing structure, which was built in 1983, is “worn out.”

Talmage noted that the building’s roof needs to be replaced and the kitchen is small and inefficient. Renovations would not bring the existing building up to standard, he added.

Questions raised by the staff included a proposed setback of 20 feet that exceeds the guideline of 10 feet and the current average setback of 18 feet along Elmwood. Also, staff noted that the building is oriented “more towards public parking than the public sidewalk.” The entrance off Elmwood is separated from the sidewalk by a driveway “interrupting the pedestrian connectivity,” the report added.

Lizard’s Thicket is using plans for the McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of Elmwood and Assembly Street, which were approved by the commission in April 2012, as a guide in putting together the project for 818 Elmwood, Talmage said.

The staff noted that it recommended denial of McDonald’s plans “a number of times, prior to lengthy negotiations that provided public benefits to mitigate the impact” of drive lanes between the building and sidewalks. The McDonald’s plan was submitted multiple times over 18 months before winning city approval, according to staff notes.

Commission Chairman Robert Wynn told Talmage “some changes to your current plan would certainly bring you back to staff and see how it moves from there.”

The applicant can appeal the commission’s vote to a state court within 30 days.

Lizard’s Thicket is a family owned and operated restaurant chain with 15 locations specializing in Southern home cooking. Founded in 1977, Lizard’s Thicket has operated the Elmwood location for three decades.

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.

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