Planning Commission denies part of Chick-Fil-A plan due to pedestrian safety

A site plan for a new Chick-fil-A on Hugh Howell Road

Tucker, GA — A proposal by Chick-Fil-A to relocate less than a quarter of a mile down Hugh Howell Road has drawn more questions than answers.

In a Sept. 16 meeting, Tucker Planning Commission reviewed the application to relocate the fast-food restaurant to 4435 Hugh Howell, at the corner of Rosser Terrace, the lot where Greater Good BBQ was formerly operating.

Plans show access from Hugh Howell Road would be closed, driving all traffic to one entrance/exit on Rosser Terrace.  The plans include widening of Rosser Terrace from Hugh Howell to the entrance. A traffic light is not proposed because Hugh Howell falls under the jurisdiction of Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).

Absent from the meeting were board chair Katherine Atteberry, who had a scheduling conflict, and vice chair Jessica Vargas, who resigned because she moved out of the city according to a city spokesperson. Committee member Cara Schroeder, candidate for City Council, recused herself from the discussion and vote.

“With the nature of my business as a professional consultant and fundraiser in the community, and because I know many business owners in the Atlanta community, thus as a result I felt that I was ethically obligated to recuse myself from voting on the SLUP and full application,” Schroeder told Tucker Observer.

Neighbors on Rosser Terrace say the street is already being used as a high-speed cut through to Tucker Industrial Road.

Andy Wood, resident of Rosser Terrace, has been working to get speed humps on the street. Traffic volume prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was twice the county limit, and the average speed on Rosser Terrace is 58 mph in a 25 mph zone, Wood said.

“I don’t know any other place in Tucker that wants to dump commercial traffic on a residential street,” said Wood.

Courtney Smith, Tucker planning and zoning director, said DeKalb County delayed a request for speed calming during the pandemic “but it is ready to go back to the county if the residents are ready,” said Smith.

The reason for Chick-Fil-A’s move, according to Bridgette Ganter of Bowman Consulting, is lack of safety at the current site. Ganter said this is the second location her company has tried to nail own for Chick-Fil-A operator Brad Spratte.

City staff recommended denial of two variances because the proposed location of the drive thru lanes creates a potentially unsafe condition for pedestrians, said a memo. Staff recommended 18 conditions for the application.

Ganter said regarding the layout of the building and drive-thru lanes, “there is really no way to do this without violating something.” Any development that straddles a downtown corridor and a residential neighborhood require balance, she said.

“Honestly, we’ve laid this thing out 10 times and this is the absolute best one we can come up with to get cars in and out safely, and to provide enough parking and to stay away from the neighbors,” Ganter said.

Smith said another meeting with the city engineering team and Chick-Fil-A is warranted.

Planning Commission voted to recommend to City Council:

– Approval of SLUP 21-0004 in a 4-0 vote.

– Denial of CV 21-0002 to change the locational requirements of the drive thru in a 4-0 vote.

– Denial of CV 21-0003 to change the setback requirements in a 3-1 vote.

– Approval of CV 21-0004 to relieve the applicant from inter-parcel access in a 4-0 vote.

City Council will hold a public meeting on the matter on Tuesday, Oct. 12. City Council is delayed due to the federal holiday.

Staff also proposed a series of changes to the city’s zoning ordinance, including allowing restaurants to use sidewalk space for dining; restricting convenience stores in the downtown district; and restricting hookah bars from serving alcohol or food in downtown Tucker and Northlake districts.

“Do we really want to prohibit alcohol from vapor bars? It might be a very good way of making sure they don’t come into town, I think. But why have a bar, whether it’s a hookah bar or any other, where alcohol is not served?” asked committee member Steve Smith.

Planning Commission is a recommending body. After Planning Commission hears an application, the matter goes to City Council where two public hearings are held. Council members hear from the applicant, as well as those in favor or in opposition of plans, before voting.

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