Chick-fil-A meets with concerned residents

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Concerns about increased traffic and objections to altering the route of an alley were the most frequently raised issues about a proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant during the July 31 neighborhood meeting.

About 35 local residents attended the meeting at Englewood’s Mayflower Church, where company representatives described their proposal for the Chick-fil-A restaurant they want to build at Dartmouth Avenue and Broadway.

Troy Kelts, project engineer with Merrick and Co., said the proposal is buy the site that runs west to Acoma Street and includes two houses. The plan is to demolish the two buildings that were used to house Funtastic Fun and build a 4,600-square-foot building on the site facing Broadway. The houses would also be demolished to create the waiting area for the drive-thru and to build a 54-space parking lot.

The building would include inside seating for 120 plus an outside seating area for 24 customers. A franchisee will run the restaurant and traditionally, a restaurant this size has between 75 and 100 full- and part-time employees.

The site will have to be rezoned to accommodate the project. The zoning change to a planned unit development takes four to six months. Residents can again express opinions about the project, as the rezoning process requires public hearings before the planning and zoning commission and city council.

If the rezoning is approved, the company will buy the site and hope to begin work by early spring 2014.

After the presentation, a number of neighbors expressed concern about the additional traffic the restaurant would generate, adding congestion to an already congested Broadway-Dartmouth intersection and to Acoma Street.

“Your plan shows an exit onto Acoma. We already have too much traffic on Acoma and that will make it worse,” said Richard Burton, area resident. “The traffic speeds through our neighborhood and the street is always busy. This won’t help things.”

Resident Heidi Anderson agreed. She said it is hard to get in or get out of Acoma at Dartmouth. She said the additional traffic would add to the congestion and make it harder for resident to be able to park on the street.

Another issue is the proposal for the alley between Broadway and Acoma. Chick-fil-A proposes closing the south end of the alley and creating a 90-degree turn from the alley into the store’s driveway that exits on Acoma.

Beverly Cummins was emphatic that the company should leave the alley alone. She told the company representatives to do what they want otherwise but not to change the alley route.

“We have 13 garages opening onto that alley and you want to change the route,” she said. “We don’t appreciate you taking our land, messing with our alley and messing up our neighborhood.”

However, other residents said the additional traffic is an issue but having a successful business in the neighborhood is better than having an empty building.

Sarah Yarbrough said she favors the project. She said she worked for Chick-fil-A in Georgia and the company scholarships helped her go to college. She also said there were rules in place designed to make the jobs available to local residents and students.

Steve Lewis, senior development manager for Chick-fil-A, said the company wants to be responsive to the concerns of area residents to make the business successful for the restaurant and for the neighborhood.

“The reason I am here is to hear your concerns,” Lewis told the audience. “We will work with our designers and the city to see what we can do to address as many of your issues as possible.”

After the meeting, Anderson said she is much more positive about the project than she was before.

“I feel they listened to us and will try to do what they can to answer our concerns,” she said. “I now feel the restaurant will be an improvement over an empty building.”

Anita Carter had similar comments.

“I believe they will work to try to get a handle on the traffic issues,” she said. “I feel they are serious about being dedicated to addressing our concerns as best they can.”