Plan for new Swig drive-thru in Sugar House hits a snag over boundary dispute

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A planned drive-thru from soda brand Swig in the Sugar House neighborhood was moving toward opening and even received permits from the city before the neighbors discovered the plan would likely lead to lines of cars blocking their land.

The soda chain, which is majority-owned by the Larry H. Miller Company, planned to make space for two drive-thru lanes, at least one of which is on a neighbor’s property, Building Salt Lake has learned. Another might not comply with the city’s code around drive-thrus.

Over a year after Swig first applied for a permit to retrofit a Jitterbug coffee shop into its first location in Salt Lake City, the city became aware of a property dispute between the neighbors.

The issue has caused a snag for Swig’s planned incursion into Salt Lake City. The company has over 50 locations, nearly all of them in the suburbs in Utah and beyond.

It’s not clear what’s in store for the retrofitted building at 1855 S. 700 E. after the city discovered that the plans it approved for the likely long lines of people sitting in cars violated an easement between the previous owners and the owners of a dry cleaning business to the south.

The easement has been in place since 2003 and sought to help customers at Dirk’s dry cleaners and the former Jitterbug Coffee shop navigate the awkward and angular property lines for both sites.

According to the easement, the agreement was supposed to remain in effect in perpetuity, even if the property changed hands. 

An easement between the two property owners has managed access to the awkwardly shaped properties for 20 years.

But when Swig submitted plans last year to retrofit the building and rearrange the drive-thru lanes to make space for an expected crush of motorists waiting in their cars for soda, the plans didn’t follow the framework of the easement.

The plans also appear to show two drive-thru lanes coming from 700 East, while the city’s ordinance around drive-thrus says that “only one driveway providing vehicular access to and from the drive-through window or service area shall be provided from any street.” 

In a statement, the city acknowledged that it had approved the plan based on information it had received from Swig.

“The location of the easement has been cleared up and it was found that some of Swig’s customer traffic would occur outside of the specified easement yet in accordance with past traffic patterns of the prior coffee shop business,” Casey Stewart, Salt Lake City’s development review supervisor, told us.

Stewart said Swig and the dry cleaning business were reviewing the easement and its language to try to work things out.

“For now, the city has conditioned Swig’s permit to not conduct any lane striping and pavement painting for the neighbor’s property until the situation is resolved in some form,” Stewart said.

The city didn’t respond to questions about how the dual drive-thru lanes off 700 East comply with existing city rules. And it’s not clear how things will shake out.

Email Taylor Anderson

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.