Chicken fight over Clovis land keeps McDonald’s from building

The Fresno BeeSeptember 2, 2013 

McDonald's wants to build a restaurant at one of the most-traveled intersections in Clovis but may have to find another place to roost.

The plan for a McDonald's on a 1-acre site at the southwest corner of Shaw and Clovis avenues, the former home of the Gateway Shell service station, was supported by the city's Planning Commission — if the fast-food restaurant could buy land from a neighboring shopping center to the west for parking and improved traffic access.

But then El Pollo Loco, a chicken-focused, fast-food restaurant that occupies a site in that adjacent shopping center, squawked about the deal. El Pollo Loco invoked a clause in its lease allowing it to challenge competing newcomers that sell a significant percentage of chicken products.

The company said that chicken sales under the golden arches exceed the percentage specified in its lease agreement with the shopping center owners. (It's unclear how much chicken is too much; a company official did not return telephone calls.)

But McDonald's wasn't about to chicken out.

The corporation has some leeway in restaurant design and ultimately could find a solution that won't require buying property from the neighboring center, thus bypassing the chicken sales clause, a spokesman said.

"Everything is in flux and negotiation," said Charlie Brown, director of operations with Vigen, Inc., an architectural firm for McDonald's. "Those types of restrictions and clauses are not completely uncommon, a lot of larger chains use them to limit competition in their shopping centers."

Officials submitted a new plan to the city of Clovis. But city officials say the latest proposal does not adequately address access to the property and would create serious traffic issues.

So the restaurant pulled that plan last month and will return to the drawing board.

Dwight Kroll, Clovis planning director, said the project faces numerous challenges from the city and the other property owners.

Putting a McDonald's at the corner will fill a vacant lot at a major intersection, he said, but road access concerns could keep the project cooped up.

But, Kroll said, "we would love to see that site developed."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.

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