By Maggie Lee

The Dunwoody Community Council won’t vote its opinion on a proposal for a Chick-fil-A in the city until at least next month.

After meetings with city staff and a thumbs down from the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, the company has gotten a lawyer and a hearing delay.

“We’ve retained legal counsel today,” Getra Thomason, senior development manager for Chick-fil-A told the Dec. 9 council meeting and nearly 30 residents in the audience. “We’d like to consult with our lawyer, the Dunwoody Homeowners Association and the city.  We’d like to defer.”

She said that would give the company time to sit down with the city and the DHA – which counts some 1,100 households as members – time to try to reach agreement.  Her proposal, as submitted to the council, is a new Chick-fil-A with a two-lane drive-through on the west side of the intersection of Mount  Vernon Road and Dunwoody Club Drive.

Council Chairman Tom Dwyer, given the rather “informal” remit of the council and the relatively large crowd, did allow public comment on the deferred item.

Stacey Harris, representing DHA, went first.

“What they’ve asked for in this application is a stock drive-through layout forced into three-quarters of an acre” that fails to meet the city’s comprehensive land use plan, she said.

A drive-through goes against the “intent” of the land use plan, Harris said, pointing out that the plan calls for more greenery and a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly city.

Besides that, the drawing shows a two- to four-foot wide green buffer on the street sides of the site.  City landscape ordinance requires at least 10 feet or a city council variance.

Four days previously, DHA heard Chick-fil-A’s presentation and voted not to support it.  Harris asked the community council to do the same.

The shopping center is now zoned for neighborhood shopping.  Chick-fil-A wants C-1 commercial.  The main difference is that C-1 allows more types of businesses, including drive-through windows.

Jim Williams, who lives walking distance from the would-be Chick-fil-A, wants the restaurant to move in. “Basically we see a dying shopping center that needs to be brought back to life,” said Williams, calling it a “valuable addition” to the neighborhood.

The strip mall’s tenants include a defunct Ace Hardware and an active CVS drug store.

Fellow fan Justin Cullifer suggested that if there’s a Chick-fil-A, some of the Gwinnett drivers passing by could leave a little money in the Dunwoody tax base.

“To my mind, parking would be a big issue,” said council Vice Chair Austin Kearney.  Chick-fil-A’s plans show 19 parking spaces for a restaurant with 136 seats.  A memo from Howard Koontz, city planner, confirms “the site as drawn is under-parked.”

Said Thomason, “Our solution to that was to have a cross-parking agreement with the shopping center.”

Koontz’ memo says that is either against city ordinances or is a situation not addressed by code.

By the time the community council next meets, Thomason expects to have the results of a traffic study.  At the DHA presentation, Chick-fil-A Senior Real Estate Representative Marianne Creamer suggested the company might pursue a left-turn lane painted onto Mount Vernon Drive.

In any case, neither the Community Council ‘s nor the DHA’s decisions are binding on Dunwoody City Council.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.