Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chick-Fil-A in Dunwoody


Are you in favor of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in the location of the old Blockbuster at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Dunwoody Club Forest? Chick-fil-A is in serious discussions with the owner of the property, and public meetings are forthcoming.

While some residents have expressed their concerns, Dunwoody Homeowners Association board member Dennis Crean took an informal survey to get the pulse of nearby neighbors. Dennis spoke with 35 residents - 34 said they favored the Chick-fil-A; one said they were not sure.

If the nearby neighbors are in favor - then so am I! The Chick-fil-A on Mt. Vernon Highway at Perimeter Point has proved to be a valuable asset to community, and from what I'm told, the same management team will run the proposed location at Williamsburg.

One of the issues concerning a Chick-fil-A at that location is increased traffic. The photo above shows a proposal by another member of the DHA (no, this is not in the plans, simply one man's thoughts) to re-route Jett Ferry Rd., lining it up with North Peachtree Rd. To do this, a corner of the old Ace Hardware would have to be demolished. I'm not sure the owner of the property would favor this, but it does, on the surface, seem to make sense.

14 comments:

BrookRunner said...

the tree huggers, spandex bike riders, gardeners, and earthy people will show up to shout down the chick fil a. they want no fast food and no drive thrus. why have this meeting> Chick fil a PR staff should avoid a public meeting and avoid dha. property owner and tenant work a deal, go to city for approval, end of story.

Anonymous said...

If this turns into a community and Council discussion about a drive-thru or convenience businesses, the exchange will be as heated, if not more so, as the chicken discussion.

Any attempt of Dunwoody to ban drive-thru windows on convenience businesses is an intrusion of government and a business/jobs killer. Sustainability efforts should stick to synchronizing traffic lights...we all agree on that need.

Chip said...

Chick-fil-A is certainly a "lesser of two (or three) evils" among the fast-food concerns, and would be well-received by local residents.

The most glaring problem is going to be handling the critical turn-in/turn-out to the drive-thru, given the intersection at Mt.Vernon and Dunwoody Club. This situation, at face value, would seem to dwarf the problems associated with the C-f-a at Mount Vernon and Abernathy in the shopping center.

If the developer thinks he can simply replace the Blockbuster/UPS Store building with a Chick-fil-a, he's underestimating the response that the traffic and vehicular movement in that lot will engender.

Chick-fil-A and the City of Dunwoody had better work out a viable (and forward-looking !!) plan to ameliorate conditions at the triangle, or I'm afraid this is a non-starter from the get-go.

Chip

Bob said...

First major change in a commercial property and we are going to sit back and say nothing about another Drive Thru.
The logic is amazing.
Rob Augustine says we already have two so we should allow a third.
"We became a city to take control" is the rally cry I hear all the time, so lets sit back now and change nothing
I like Chick fil A but to think they are going to build something just because of who they are is silly
Ever been to the parking lot at Perimeter Point? They said the same thing there.
Denis and his polls. So Chick fil A is OK but god forbid we have a Goodwill, not our image I guess.
Where was the out cry of "government intrusion " then

Bob Fiscella said...

Bob - I'm not sure what Rob Augustine said, but I would hope we do a traffic analysis before allowing another drive-thru. And if the traffic can be managed and the residents want it, what's wrong with re-zoning for a Chick-fil-A? This would, indeed, be the residents taking control.

Hopefully we learn from Perimeter Point and don't make the same mistake (as you know the Perimeter Point parking lot is going to be reworked soon).

As for Dennis's polls, I like the idea of trying to gage how people feel. It doesn't always mean they're right, but I believe that is important.

By the way, I may have been in the minority, but I didn't mind Goodwill:

http://www.portlandtribune.com/features/story.php?story_id=33370

Chip said...

Bob:

You might, at least, point out in your commentary that I wasn't on the "Hallelujah! Band Wagon" .

You are well aware that the Ace Hardware location has been vacant for almost 3 years, now. The blockbuster location will probably lie fallow for another year. If Chick-fil-A is interested in the site, both the Zoning and Planning Commission and the City Council will be involved.

The situation seems to be that for all the ballyhoo about community development, economic development, and "booster-ism" by friends of Dunwoody, we just ain't that attractive to the best kinds of businesses.

I'd be interested in your thoughts.....

Chip

Anonymous said...

What happens in a private parking lot is between Chick-Fil-A and the private shopping center owner. The city should be concerned only if the traffic (whether the business has a drive-thru or not) spills into the public roadway. Dunkin Donuts is a good example of where this traffic spillover happens, but its approval predates Dunwoody City Council.

Since it has been cited, the situation at Perimeter Pointe is a perfect example of my point. The Chick-Fil-A drive-thru causes no traffic problem on the public roadways, but has a horrible design for the private shopping center flow. And the shopping center owners have vowed to rework the private lanes, but again, that's up to them, not the government to dictate.

A member of the Council-appointed Sustainability Commission recently stated Dunwoody should ban all drive-thrus on the basis that customers should be forced to have an social interaction with multiple people, not just the drive-thru window person. This thinking is dangerous government intrusion. No government should tell me with whom I must have a social interaction.

Chip said...

FamousDunwoody:

Thanks for bloviating on the subject.

The issue regarding the drive-thru is in two parts:

1) The current zoning for that location does not allow for a drive-thru, thus a zoning variance would be required.

2) Anyone who observes westbound traffic along Mt. Vernon during the AM rush hour, has to consider the impact that turn-in, turn-out traffic generated by a Chick-fil-A would have on that stretch of Mt. Vernon between Saffron/Dunwoody Club, and Tilly Mill (this includes the intersections of N. Peachtree Road and and Jett Ferry.

Resolving the potential impact of a drive thru with access from and immediately back onto Mt. Vernon is a critical component of this application, and will (in my opinion) play a significant part in whether the application will pass or fail.

Chip

Anonymous said...

Chip, I hope you'll be courteous and not resort to name calling or derogatory retorts. I expressed my opinion about government involvement in projects like this. This is a blog for personal opinion, which I did offer respectfully.

You and I do agree on one thing: if a planned development creates traffic back-ups on a public roadway, that is the within the control of local government.

A prior poster was suggesting Dunwoody government should prohibit a drive-thru restaurant because of how it affected the shopping center's internal traffic flow (off the public roadway). Perimeter Pointe Chick-Fil-A was cited. A shopping center's traffic flow on its own lot should not enter into the governmental arena...just when it affects the public roadways.

I remember when Ace was a popular Harris Teeter grocery store before it was Ace. Plenty of traffic in and out to Mt. Vernon came with it and to some degree, Blockbuster itself. Let's remember Chick-Fil-A is not about constructing a new building that doesn't already exist in the area. It is about breathing life into existing vacant property that now has no traffic since it has no customers.

Will Chick-Fil-A create more traffic than the area previously absorbed with Harris Teeter and Blockbuster? Who knows, but Chick-Fil-A would be a good neighbor, good employer, and a good addition of convenience to our corner of Dunwoody.

By the way, what zoning classification do you believe the site is now?

Chip said...

FamousDunwoody: Let me apologize to you if I offended you. I was responding to your comments, not to you, which at the time I felt were missing the mark and bringing in extraneous points. I still had a bad taste in my eyes from Bob L.'s comments, and made the error of lumping you into his camp. I regret the error.

That being said, your most recent post is certainly well-presented and well-argued.

First, to you last question, I checked with the DeKalb Tax Assessors website, and that piece of property is zoned NS-Neiborhood Shopping. That's not a common designator, but it does prohibit drive thru's. That's probably why the cleaners in that center is a walk-up service.

You have a valid point about traffic burden when Harris Teeter and Ace were in the center, but I disagree with your assessment. The problem with a fast-food drive-thru is the queue length during peak hours, and the typical single-serve line. The visitor load on the streets when Harris-Teeter was there rarely had a "peak period" and there were multiple service points (inside the store) so that exiting the store occurred more or less randomly at low volume.
However, in the single-lane drive thru scenario, there is only one service point, and the queue length depends on the number of customers arriving, and the speed at which a single point can dispense the orders.

During off-peak hours, the drive-thru would present little or no problem. Agreeing with your observation about the Perimeter Pointe C-f-a being a private parking issue, I hasten to point out that it is precisely because that site lacks adequate queue-length that it creates such problems at peak times (morning, lunch, and evening rush hours and weekends).

Unless the center owner, Chick-fil-A and the City of Dunwoody present a plan that eliminates or reduces the queue from backing up onto Mt. Vernon, or otherwise improves the access control (stop signs, traffic lights, turn-lanes, etc.) it is my opinion that adding a drive-thru for a business as popular as Chick-fil-A can only result in increased traffic congestion and disruption along that corridor.

Of course, another option is to add multiple drive-thru lanes, but I doubt anyone would really encourage that notion on this particular site. (This does occur at a C-f-A over by Cumberland Mall, btw.)

Others have suggested, and I agree in principle, that reworking the whole center, abandoning the former Ace location and realigning Jett Ferry with N. Peachtree should be on the table, both for short term and long-term improvement in the area.

Like you FamousD., I'm waiting to see the presentation on Oct.28th.

Kind Regards,

Chip

Anonymous said...

Apology accepted and thank you.

Your understanding of the zoning classification is the same as mine: Neighborhood Shopping District. As an aside, the McDonalds/Arbys shopping center (Williamsburg, I think it's called) is also zoned NS, yet both of these restaurants have a drive-through. I don't know if NS classificiation was added after these businesses and thus, were grandfathered or if those sites obtained some other exception back in the day.

From John Heneghan's post at his site, it appears Chick-Fil-A (or the property owner) is going for a rezoning, not a variance. It will be interesting to see the proposed site plan and how it addresses the traffic queue issue (if from the layout,it appears the queue would spill over into the public roadway).

For me, I am not concerned about an increase in traffic on Mt. Vernon or Jett Ferry for this project, as I do not believe Chick-Fil-A will increase those traffic counts by any appreciable difference than it is today. Many of the customers will be those driving through the general area already and make Chick-Fil-A a stop along the way. Plus, any successful business that opens will bring traffic. That's how the customers get there and we need the economic development.

Chip said...

FamousD:

I don't think the traffic will increase significantly, that wasn't really an objection.

The problem is "spillover" and queue length during rush hour(s)...if you watch traffic, a left turn onto N. Peachtree can back up traffic; a large group of cars turning right from Jett Ferry onto Mt. Vernon can back up traffic....a line of cars trying to re-enter Mt.Vernon after stopping at Chick-fil-A can backup traffic....

If Chick-fil-A only had in-house seating, not a problem. I don't see why the developer would be motivated to alleviate the traffic issues, unless he were compelled by the City.

We'll see on Oct 28th, I guess...

Chip

Anonymous said...

"....a line of cars trying to re-enter Mt.Vernon after stopping at Chick-fil-A can backup traffic...."

Chip, Maybe I'm missing your point. If these cars are re-entring Mt. Vernon after stopping at Chick-Fil-A, then the resulting traffic back-up isn't on the city's public roadway, but in the private parking lot and outside city control (beyond the rezoning required). The property owner (not the city) defitely has to deal with it or else Chick-Fil-A loses some customers.

Based on my own trips by this area virtually every day, the traffic backups on Jett Ferry/Mt. Vernon and Mt.Vernon/N. Peachtree happen regularly with or without a business in the triangle parcel. Chick-Fil-A shouldn't affect that in any event.

I wonder if All Saints would be approved in today's traffic environment? Great church, but horrible traffic backup at multiple times.

Enough said by me. I hope to see you on Oct 28, unless I'm on a last-minute business trip (being self-employed does that more times than I like).

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