TWIN FALLS — Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, Janet Bartelf drives one hour from her home near West Magic Reservoir to DaVita Dialysis in Twin Falls.
When she pulls into either of the two entrances to the Pole Line Road clinic, she waits another 5 to 15 minutes for a line of cars ahead of her. For the other drivers, it’s the usual rush to get their early-morning caffeine fix at Dutch Bros. Coffee. But it’s made Bartelf late, on multiple occasions, for the treatment she needs to live another day.
“It’s almost impossible some mornings to get into dialysis,” she said. “It makes you anxious and angry, and that’s not good either. I have other problems.”
The double lines of drive-through customers regularly block patients from reaching the front or the back of DaVita Dialysis, Bartelf said. And it also can make exiting tricky.
But technically, the situation doesn’t break city code. Over the past year, DaVita and Dutch Bros. have worked with their landlords and the city to reach a compromise — but it seems that even the solutions present more problems.
In the meantime, it’s an issue that many patients with chronic kidney disease have to face multiple times a week, DaVita Dialysis Facility Administrator Trevor Pulley said.
“We can’t get patients really in or out,” he said. “Probably 75 percent (of them) need to be able to be dropped off right at our front door.”
Angi Veek, a corporate spokeswoman for Dutch Bros., said the company is keeping an open communication with the city and DaVita. The developer is working to submit plans to the city to reroute the drive-through.
“Our growth team is very well aware of it and working with the local developer,” she said.
In the meantime, they have rerouted lines around the DaVita building, Veek said.
But that wasn’t the case on Thursday afternoon, when one lane of cars crept along just inches from parked vehicles in front of DaVita Dialysis — blocking the aisle to pull up to or out of the center’s patient entrance.
“This isn’t the busy time of day, either,” said Michelle Roberts, a social worker for DaVita. “This is mild.”
Pulley said his communication with Dutch Bros. over the past year has so far been fruitless. Besides that, on the few occasions Dutch Bros. staff have rerouted vehicles around the back of his building, he said, it’s been an equally bad situation: The drive-through line passes between two rows of parked cars and blocks the handicapped parking.
A flaw in the code
Dutch Bros. came into the development off of Pole Line Road in 2015, the year after DaVita Dialysis moved there. The businesses have had conflicts ever since. DaVita Dialysis built its building front to its property line.
When Pulley complained to the City Council in January, he was referred to the city’s planning and zoning department to try to sort things out.
“Everything is to code,” Twin Falls Zoning and Development manager Renee Carraway-Johnson said. “It’s just a worst-case scenario for traffic flow.”
In fact, foreseeing issues after Dutch Bros. got its special use permits, the city opted to change its code to prevent those problems from happening elsewhere, she said. But the new code doesn’t apply to what was already approved.
“They’ve been a lot more successful than anticipated,” Carraway-Johnson said.
Dutch Bros. proposed stacking vehicles onto another property to help solve the problem. But Carraway-Johnson said Wednesday the city hadn’t received an application.
The Twin Falls coffee franchise also changed ownership a couple of months ago, and is being run by a regional manager from out of state.
DaVita could appeal the Planning and Zoning Commission to revoke one or both of Dutch Bros.’ special use permits for the drive-throughs. Pulley said he hasn’t done so, in an effort to be neighborly, but it may yet come to that.
Premier Auto Group, an adjacent property owner, previously had issues with Dutch Bros. customers pulling into its lot after missing the turn when the coffee shop first opened.
“The entrance to Dutch Bros. and DaVita is very confusing to get into,” sales manager Clay McCombs said.
Citing safety reasons, the dealership installed a fence and planter between the properties to prevent people from cutting through to get to the drive-through. Except for the occasional lost customer, McCombs said he hasn’t had a lot of issues since.
But DaVita patients report that besides the inconvenience and late appointments, they’ve been honked at and yelled at by drivers in the coffee line when they try to get to either of two exits that are blocked. Bartelf said she’s even been flipped off.
With faded paint and no signage, it’s an unusual layout and a stressful situation for many first-timers as well as those who return time after time.
“I feel bad complaining,” Bartelf said. But, “I don’t think it’s fair to us when they take up the whole place.”
‘A ticking time bomb’
DaVita Dialysis would have to spend millions of dollars to relocate because its business requires a specific water system and plumbing in order to do the treatments. But Pulley and his staff worry that they could face a potential lawsuit with the situation as it is.
That’s because emergency vehicles could be blocked in or out if they arrive at the wrong time of day.
“Our people are really sick,” Dietician Janine Neiwirth said. “That could be a major safety issue.”
Bartelf worries about what could happen if she had a second stroke during one of her three-hour treatments. It isn’t unheard of for a patient to need an ambulance due to health concerns, Pulley said.
“It’s just kind of a ticking time bomb,” he said. “That’s going to be a huge liability. It could be life or death for someone, or it could be a huge lawsuit.”