West Chester residents worry restaurant will make traffic worse

A Mexican restaurant chain wants to build a new location at a busy intersection but some residents say the restaurant will only add to traffic woes.

El Rancho Grande has requested a change to plans for a nearly 3-acre site at the corner of Cincinnati-Columbus and Fields Ertel roads. The change would allow for a 6,400-square-foot restaurant at the site. The plan previously approved in 2009 called for 21,500 square feet of development on the site, including a bank, two office buildings and a bank/day care.

The restaurant chain’s owners have worked with the township to develop the site and a traffic engineer said there is “significantly less impact” with the restaurant on the corner as opposed to previous plans for the site, according to developer Dan Wheeler, of West Chester Twp.

Restaurant use is a “better, more compatible use” with the residential neighborhood and El Rancho Grande is a neighborhood restaurant that closes each night by 10 p.m. Wheeler said.

“There’s a low noise volume that’s produced out of it just from the traffic that would be coming in and out of the property and no live music other than the occasional special events where there might be a Mariachi band, which is all internal and of no significant impact on the neighborhood,” he said.

Proposed parking and turn lanes for the site were designed to address and minimize traffic issues, Wheeler said.

“They (motorists) will not be on the road turning in,” he said. The proposed turning lane is “the safest way you can turn into a property and at considerable expense to the property owners,” he said.

Traffic studies showed the original plan with the bank and other buildings would have generated 300 trips a day while the restaurant is expected to generate 84 trips a day, according to McGill Smith Punshon, an area architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, planning and surveying company.

In addition, improvements coming to Fields Ertel Road also are expected to help prevent lines of vehicles backing up.

But some residents say no amount of road improvements will be enough to handle the increased traffic generated.

Stan Yarrish, a resident of the nearby Rolling Knolls subdivision, said building the restaurant on the corner of Fields Ertel and Cincinnati-Columbus roads is “a bad idea.”

Yarrish said he’s not persuaded that the restaurant is a less-intense use.

“I don’t buy it because any additional traffic on that corner for whatever reason is not going to be solved by a little turning lane on Fields Ertel Road into the east side of the property,” he said. “You’ve done nothing to relieve the congestion on (U.S.) 42 for the people like myself and I’m sure a lot of other people who live in the same neighborhood who try to get in and out of that street every day.”

Rancho Grande has 14 locations around the Cincinnati and Dayton areas and is features live music only on May 5 —

Cinco de Mayo — and only indoors, according to Garibaldi Rodriguez, president of operations for El Rancho Grande.

“We don’t have big bands at the restaurant … just food and margaritas, basically,” he said.

Rodriguez said El Rancho Grande purchased the West Chester Twp. property so it can shut down and move from an existing location nearly a mile to the south at 11765 Lebanon Road in Sharonville, just south of Interstate 275.

West Chester Twp. trustees are expected to consider the matter during their regularly scheduled meeting next Tuesday.

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