SEATTLE – The brand-new Dick’s Drive-In restaurant in Kent hasn’t been open for a year and the owners worry it may not be open much longer.
The new restaurant sits on land that could be bulldozed in the coming years to help Sound Transit expand southward.
“Never did it come up the in all of those conversations, they might take away our entire restaurant,” said the restaurant’s Executive Vice President Jasmine Donovan.
Donovan and her family hoped the South Sound location would endure as their other locations have.
Customers helped choose the expansion and the company offers generous pay and benefits for its employees, but less than a year after the grand opening Donovan worries it all could have been for nothing.
“We were shocked to learn that Sound Transit was considering tearing down our brand-new restaurant to build a transit maintenance facility,” she said.
“We are at the very, very beginning of this process,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.
Sound Transit says the land where Dick’s has opened is just one of half-a-dozen sites being considered as a maintenance facility – a facility the agency says is vital to connecting light rail from Seattle through South King County and into Tacoma.
“What we can’t do is just dismiss one site because we all love hamburgers,” said Rogoff. “The law requires us to look at all the reasonable sites.”
A shuttered land-fill is only a stone’s throw away from the Kent restaurant. Some believe Sound Transit should use it for the maintenance facility but considering the environmental cost it could prove to be an expensive option.
“That’s hundreds and millions of dollars in additional cost paid that would have to be paid by taxpayers across King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties,” said Rogoff. “So, the landfill site is not an easy solution.”
“We should have been engaged in the process,” said city of Kent Mayor Dana Ralph.
She told Q13 News the city council passed an emergency moratorium on transit maintenance facilities earlier this week in hopes of derailing Sound Transit’s plan to possibly bulldoze the shopping center where Dick’s is currently open for business.
“It’s not fair to the employees of those businesses because it’s that cloud for the next two years of are they or aren’t they, and nobody wants to live that way,” Ralph said.
Sound Transit says it will continue a search for a 30-acre site for the maintenance facility. The agency says it will either narrow down locations or expand to more options later this spring.
Either way, Donovan doesn’t want to end what looks to be a promising business even if Sound Transit pays the company market value in exchange for the property.
“I’m sure they would attempt to compensate us but it’s not about the dollar,” said Donovan. “It’s about everything that went into selecting the site.”
Sound Transit says the site selection process is still very new and insists there will be multiple opportunities for neighbors to share their ideas and concerns before a facility is constructed.