Dutch Bros. calms some jitters for neighbors

Neighbors living next to Mooney Blvd. location say conditions have improved in the last month allowing them to sleep through the night, enjoy their properties again

VISALIA – While Visalia will spend the rest of this year fighting to return to normal after a languishing pandemic, one neighborhood is hoping its fight will end sooner.

Those living in the beleaguered Beverly Glen neighborhood next to Dutch Bros.’ Mooney Boulevard location recently shared how changes at the drive-thru coffee chain was allowing them to sleep easier and spend more time in their backyards after dealing with glaring lights, blaring speakers and snaring traffic patterns since the location opened in late December.

In addition to some of its customers preferring the newest location on Akers Street, residents say the manager at the location across from College of the Sequoias has granted several concessions to his neighbors to the east.

Stephen Tootle, a COS professor and co-host of this newspaper’s podcast, said after several discussions with Kai Hodges, the onsite manager, Dutch Bros. closed down its walk-up window, turned off its external lights on the east side of the building, removed its external speakers, and, maybe most importantly, has rerouted traffic off Mooney Boulevard onto Myrtle Avenue. Tootle, who lives adjacent to the drive-thru coffee shop, said publicly thanked city staff, police officers and councilmembers who have worked on the issues, such as moving trash pickups to later in the morning instead of at 4 a.m.

“We have seen so much progress recently,” Tootle said at the April 5 city council meeting. “I can now use my backyard and sleep through the night … I hope we continue to see progress on the issues and have the company comply with the permit.”

Kari Grant, who also shares a fence line with the coffee chain, said she is sleeping in her own bedroom for the first time in months but there is still a lot of noise coming from cars in the drive-thru. Grant, who has lived at her home for 30 years, said she knows there is little the company can do about customers revving up their engines or blaring their stereo but said it would help if the drive-thru line was more than 150 feet away from her property line, which was part of the original conditional use permit.

“Things are definitely looking up and I think things will continue to get better,” Grant said.

Laura Duarte, who also lives on Edwards Court behind the business, said she has also started sleeping in her own bedroom again thanks to a reduction in the noise. However, she said the late-night hours of operation and days with specials are still seeing about 100 cars per hour. She said she hopes the city will take the additional step of raising the wall from seven to 10 feet because the foundation of the Dutch Bros. property was raised three feet higher than her home, effectively making the wall just four feet tall. She said city planning staff told her the wall could not be raised because it would set a precedence for future projects, as block walls can only be seven feet high under the current city ordinance.

“I know there are higher walls behind Walmart and other businesses,” Duarte said. “You should mandate a wall height to preserve our privacy rights.”

Councilmember Greg Collins, who lives in the Beverly Glen neighborhood, said the intersection of Myrtle and Mooney was still “a little dicey” at certain times of the day but had seen an overall improvement in the traffic patterns. He said he wanted to see the city build a higher wall to pull the business into full compliance with its conditional user permit.

“The neighbors I think are desiring a wall that is tall enough so that the people that are walking along the sidewalk and Dutch Brothers are looking into their bedroom windows,” Collins said. “I think that’s certainly right, and a good neighbor policy. And to date, that hasn’t happened.”

Mayor Steve Nelsen said the changes by Dutch Bros. has helped reduce the noise level but said he was meeting with developer JR Shannon and Dutch Bros to work on the issue of a higher wall.

“We will come to a solution as far as the wall and the height of the fence,” Nelsen said. “So that has been taken care of.”

Tootle said the traffic patterns are working now but he is worried there will be even more challenges when COS returns to full-time, in-person instruction in the fall with at least two-thirds of enrollment returning to campus.

Dutch Bros. told the Visalia Planning Commission it was hoping to open at least two other locations in Visalia sooner rather than later. The Visalia Planning Commission narrowly approved a permit for Dutch Bros.’ third location at the northeast corner of Demaree Street and Riggin Avenue, and the company has already announced plans to open a fourth location further down Mooney at Visalia Parkway.

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