It could be back to the drawing board for Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A in its pursuit to build a new restaurant near Belle Meade at the corner of Harding Road and Woodlawn Drive.
A pair of unscientific polls taken by surrounding neighborhood groups shows the majority of residents nearby the site who took part in the survey disapprove of Chick-fil-A’s current proposal of a drive-thru restaurant concept.
“At this time, I don’t think there’s enough consensus to warrant filing a bill,” said Metro Councilman Jason Holleman, who would need to sponsor an ordinance to clear the company from a zoning restriction.
Chick-fil-A’s original plan called for the demolition of a former Regions bank building to make way for a new street-level structure that would include 28 outdoors seats, two drive-thru windows, parking placed in the rear and accommodations for walk-ups. It would not feature any indoor seating.
Representatives of Chick-fil-A had sought a zoning variance from the area’s urban design overlay, which has expressed language that prohibits drive-thrus on corner lots. But it’s the idea of a drive-thru in the area that has generated most of the criticism from neighbors.
“There’s some objection to fast food generally,” Holleman said. “They just don’t want a fast-food restaurant, period, at that site. But most of it is about the drive-thru itself. They’re worried first about drive-thru traffic and second about the litter that comes with that.”
According to James Bristol, president of the Woodlawn Area Neighborhood Association, 51 out of 75 respondents recently polled from his neighborhood disapprove of the Chick-fil-A proposal. He said 13 of 19 respondents who live in the nearby Stanford Place condominium building disapprove of the restaurant.
“My impression, that I’ve told to Jason [Holleman], is that you’re not seeing a groundswell of support for you to sponsor a zoning variance,” Bristol said.
Holleman said he shared the neighborhood’s outlook to representatives of Chick-Fil-A.
“Chick-fil-A has expressed a desire to try to address some of the comments,” he said. “Right now, I’m waiting to see what that response is from Chick-fil-A.”
Getra Thomason, development manager of Chick-fil-A, did not immediately respond to a voicemail left by The City Paper.
To try to appease residents, Chick-fil-A has offered making some accommodations, including the elimination of one access point along Woodlawn and the construction of a sidewalk beyond its own property up to The Ensworth School. The restaurant also has offered to plant a canopy of trees to shield the street’s view from the drive-thru.
A potential “Plan B” for Chick-fil-A could be to readapt — instead of demolish — the former bank building to house the new restaurant, which would eliminate the need for the zoning variance.