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Rockwall residents support second Chick-fil-A, oppose location

(ROCKWALL, TX — February 16, 2018) The Rockwall Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny the request for approval of a Specific Use Permit for the proposed drive thru only Chick-fil-A during its meeting Tuesday night.

During the public hearing, residents voiced concerns regarding the location of the proposed restaurant at Yellow Jacket Lane and South Goliad Street, an intersection they agreed is already a traffic nightmare. The 2,200 square-foot restaurant would have dual drive thru lanes narrowing down to one ultimate lane, a walk-up window and five outside tables, with no inside seating available and a total of 15 parking spaces allotted for customer parking.

Rockwall attorney Michele Ratcliffe spoke on behalf of Mario Smajli, who owns the Luigi’s restaurant located behind the subject property and has spoken in opposition to the restaurant’s location in previous Planning and Zoning meetings. Ratcliffe presented the Commissioners with documents from a traffic study conducted by engineers on behalf of Chick-fil-A, which ranked the traffic flow on eastbound Yellow Jacket on a scale of A-F as an E (unstable and poor quality traffic flow).

Smajli said that he’s not opposed to another Chick-fil-A in Rockwall but has concerns about how the increase in traffic will impact people’s ability to safely get to his restaurant or any of the surrounding businesses in the area.

“It’s not about competition,” Smajli said. “Everybody loves Chick-fil-A. I love it, my kids love it. That’s not why I’m here. This proposed restaurant location is going to make our life impossible. I’ve been here too long to have people not being able to come into my business, or to Braum’s, Chicken Express, Dairy Queen or Taco Casa.

“We are not against this Chick-fil-A, we love Chick-fil-A. This is just the wrong location for it.”

Several residents reiterated the issue of safety, especially for student drivers. Configurations for the restaurant have the majority of traffic flowing into the drive thru from Yellow Jacket, circle around the building, and exiting back out on Yellow Jacket. Many of the residents who spoke during the public hearing pointed out that traffic already backs up from that intersection to Rockwall High School when school lets out, causing issues for those trying to exit the parking lot onto Yellow Jacket.

“Looking at this particular location, I’ve been concerned with traffic all along,” said Planning and Zoning Commissioner Mark Moeller. “I can’t disagree with anything anybody has said here tonight. I appreciate Chick-fil-A and everything that you’ve done, but we’re between a rock and a hard spot here. I share the same concerns with everybody.”

Commissioner Jerry Welch said while he’s in support of another Chick-fil-A, he feels the location is just not the right fit.

“I think it’s probably like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole,” Welch said.

Planning and Zoning Chairman Johnathan Lyons echoed Welch’s sentiments.

“The fact that it’s so tight and so close to that light definitely is concerning. With any predominately drive thru location where people aren’t coming in parking and dining, it’s going to potentially cause a conflict because you’ve got a rush of cars constantly coming in. I’ve gotten so much more information this second time around that has shined some light on the traffic situation at this intersection that I wasn’t aware of before.”

Lyons made a motion to deny the request for approval of the SUP. Welch seconded the motion.

Commissioner Tracey Logan asked Director of Planning Ryan Miller to clarify what would happen to the already-approved site plan if the P&Z Commission voted to deny the SUP. Miller said the request for denial would require a 3/4 majority vote at city council. If it fails at city council, Miller said, then the applicant would still have an approved site plan but wouldn’t be able to move forward because they wouldn’t have an approved SUP. The site plan would expire in two years.

The motion to deny the request for approval of the SUP passed 4-1, with Commissioner Patrick Trowbridge the lone vote against the motion. Commissioners Annie Fishman and Eric Chodun were absent from the meeting.

The Rockwall City Council will hold a public hearing during its public meeting on Monday, Feb. 19, to discuss and consider the applicant’s request for the approval of an ordinance for a SUP for the proposed drive thru only restaurant. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Rockwall City Hall (385 S. Goliad St.). For the full meeting agenda visit http://www.rockwall.com/meetings/.

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.

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