By Moses Leos III
Disagreements on the location of a driveway nearly put a Buda business owner’s new restaurant on ice.
Greg Henry, owner of Willie’s Joint Bar and BBQ on Main Street, has battled issues with the city for 5 months. But a recent fight over driveway placement added to his confusion with the city and code enforcement.
“It’s a bait and switch situation,” Henry said. “Overall, this has been difficult to deal with. We’re told one thing, and something else happens.”
Henry’s struggles began in February, when he attempted to renovate an existing structure owned by Barbara Pecuch.
He soon ran into issues with the city regarding the structure, ranging from permitting problems to the site plan.
The issues were a far cry from what Buda city officials told Henry and Pecuch. Both say city engineer Stanley Fees promised Willie’s Joint would be open by April 4.
In April, Fees told the Hays Free Press he did not make any promises to Henry.
Problems were exacerbated by a lack of communication between Henry, Fees and Lockwood Andrews and Newnam (LAN) engineer Eric Nelson.
Their boiling point came when the city and Henry fought over the placement of driveways into the restaurant.
Henry and his engineer sought to use an existing gravel roadway parallel to the Stagecoach Park entrance. The road belonged to Pecuch, who won ownership in a lawsuit with Buda in 2006.
According to Henry, Fees initially told them they could use the road for Willie’s Joint.
“When she bought the property, that’s the road she used to get to her antique shop,” Henry said. “We thought it was grandfathered in; it was our road.”
According to Buda Planning Director Chance Sparks, the gravel road was zoned for residential use only. Per city ordinance, the road couldn’t be used for commercial purposes. A 200-foot gap between entrances is required.
“[The] basic standard for a driveway, on the same side, non-residential must be 200 feet,” Sparks said. “That’s the provision we are dealing with. There’s no administrative flexibility with that.”
Buda opted to move forward with the approved driveway on the site plan, which had the Willie’s Joint driveway on the western side of the restaurant.
Henry and his engineer raised safety concerns, claiming sight distance problems for customers exiting the restaurant.
Speed on that portion of Main Street, which is 40 mph, was also a concern.
“The further you get down here, the less you can see the cars over the hill,” Henry said. “With [cars]going 50 to 55 mph, once they crest that hill, that’s where the issue takes place.”
According to Henry’s engineer, several factors needed to happen to make the city’s option safer. That included cutting down a large oak tree near the entrance of Stagecoach Park.
In addition, the city needed to lower the speed limit to 35 miles per hour.
A third issue was the new road and driveway going over utility lines.
“Not only are they putting us in an unsafe spot, from our standpoint, but if we have one issue, if one thing cracks, we have to tear up the road,” Henry said.
However, the city stood fast. According to Henry, the city told him the only other option would be to apply for a variance for his driveway option, which he did.
But on June 3, the Buda City Council denied his variance unanimously, 7-0.
Mayor Todd Ruge said he understands the issues regarding both driveways. Ultimately, sticking with the city’s option was the council’s choice.
“The two driveways next to each other was far more dangerous than having a little bit of separation,” Ruge said. “It could have caused some problems.”
For Henry, the only option is to move forward.
“All I’m going to do is keep a smile on my face, keep moving forward, and get this sucker open,” he said.