On Chick-fil-A, Zoning Decisions and Shame

It was a night to behold at City Hall.  When are you all going to listen to me when I tell you to tune in and follow local politics?  “I hate politics” you say?  But what you say is ill-informed.  Local politics is your back yard.

For almost 3 hours I watched live streaming video of the City Council meeting to hear the decision on the matter of building a Chick-fil-A at Avalon.  I’m telling you – this stuff is better than Law and Order re-runs.  It’s real American democracy.  It’s not a courtroom, but it’s not dissimilar.  Developers and those that want to change or challenge zoning decisions have the serious duty of presenting their case to City Council.  And this City Council (allegedly) represents citizens.  We have to hope they do, anyway.

It was a sight to behold, as I watched Chick-fil-A corporate present their case.  This Chick-fil-A will be incredible, they say.  This Chick-fil-A will be a technological marvel, evidently because they can fit 33 cars in the drive through lane.  This Chick-fil-A is “affordable”, they said, “when compared to the $17.00 taco at Avalon”.  (Not sure The El Felix will appreciate that slam).  It will be custom built  – to Alpharetta standards.

At times, I thought I was watching a televised down-home church revival.  Mr. Chick-fil-A-Corporate was nodding his head “Amen” with each speaker as he presented. “Praise Be to Chick-fil-A” was the theme of the evening.  Things really got moving with the public comments. First up was former Alpharetta mayor and state legislator, Chuck Martin.  Mr. Martin appropriately called for a round of applause for the veterans in the room on this day, December 7th, a day that has lived in infamy.  Mr. Martin then went on to warmly commend Chick-fil-A and call for their presence at Avalon.  Next up was Katie Reeves – also in favor of Chick-fil-A.  Third up, was former City Councilman John Monson – also in favor of Chick-fil-A.  In fact, out of the 6-8 (?) people who spoke, only one spoke against the idea of a Chick-fil-A; a resident of Avalon.  This person complained about the traffic that already exists at Avalon and lamented the fact that a Chick-fil-A would only make this situation worse.

Attorney Rolader, in his closing comments, offered up the suggestion that Alpharetta City Council voting against a Chick-fil-A at Avalon would be paramount to them acting as if they themselves were  North American Properties, with the authority to decide what is best for that development.  In response to this suggestion, I have to step in and defend Alpharetta City Council.  It is this Council’s job to decide what zoning decisions are best for the City of Alpharetta – as Mayor Belle Isle has stated previously.  Avalon is only one (small) component of Alpharetta.  It is certainly their rightful place to vote for or against the decision to put a fast food restaurant at Avalon.

In any case, a Chick-fil-A there will be.  Yes, you can get all the chicken sandwiches you want at Avalon. Cluck, cluck, cluck.

But, shame on you Alpharetta.  Shame on you for coming out in full force tonight – John Monson, Katie Reeves, Chuck Martin and all of you that have put so much time and energy into this issue.   Poorly done- allowing all this glitter and fireworks around the issue of a fast food restaurant at Avalon, when so little attention from residents is given to more serious matters.  Where are all of you on other zoning decisions – decisions that impact traffic, quality of life, water quality, the health of our environment, the future of Alpharetta residents beyond the scope of Avalon?  And speaking of being disinterested in topics other than Chick-fil-A – what about the fact that there was no election in Alpharetta this year?   No one to challenge those up for re-election and no one to challenge Mr. Binder or Mr. Merkel?   Or that City Council meetings are scarcely attended?  That few people seem to care what decisions are made?  Well – except for this one.  A Chick-fil-A.

Yes, it takes the question of a 4th Chick-fil-A within or right on the line with Alpharetta to REALLY to get people fired up!  And why shouldn’t it, with Mark Toro’s masterful marketing of this issue?  Mr. Toro single-handedly elevated the placement of a Chick-fil-A at Avalon to the question of whether or not  you are a good American; someone who loves God and country, someone who doesn’t act like an old, white guy but who loves and believes in MARTA, high-end retail and chicken.

As I’ve said before, I really don’t care if Avalon has a Chick-fil-A or not.  And as for using the “shame” word above – hey- it’s not my favorite word.  But, I’m calling you out Alpharetta.  Shame on you for caring about chicken sandwiches more than your own quality of life.  And eating a chicken sandwich at a fast food restaurant does not equal quality of life.


15 Replies to “On Chick-fil-A, Zoning Decisions and Shame”

  1. This was my first time attending a Council meeting (and was unaware that the meetings were streamed online), but it was only coincidence that it was the Chick-fil-A meeting — I was spurred by the lack of an election. I was impressed with the attendance until the Chick-fil-A vote was taken and nearly everyone split. I’ll admit I split, too, because I was fading fast. I’d intended to stay and see what was up with the apparent goal of eliminating a significant amount of parking smack in the middle of a bunch of businesses (AKA “Old Roswell Plaza” park), but I’ll have to wait and see what happened there.

    The public commentary was indeed full of fawning cheerleading for Chick-fil-A, with plenty of irrelevant fluff tossed in. How’d you like the “aww” moment of putting the grandkids up on the projector? Given the questions and commentary by the Mayor and Council members, it looked to me that it was going to be denied. Obviously, my perception was incorrect. There were only two Avalon residents who spoke on the matter, and the Avalon resident who spoke out against the CFA made it clear why she and her husband would not be buying a new-build condo because of it fronting the road right where the CFA would be. I thought all the commentary about how CFA being a great/convenient/cheaper choice for workers/residents left out the point that the appeal would quickly wear off and they probably would not eat there more than once a week (I’m a CFA fan, but don’t want it 3-4 times a week, but maybe that’s just me).

    A few councilmen made some relevant points about the vehicle traffic plan & pedestrian traffic within Avalon and within the CFA parking lot, making note of the traffic issues with the existing CFAs in the area. As an engineer who has done some logistics analysis (and as someone who has eyes), it seems obvious to me that the isolated nature of the flow analysis and video do not take into account the fact that the flow in the lot requires an immediate left turn to either get in the drive-thru lane or to go to the rest of the parking lot — this means cross-traffic is happening right at the entrance. Thus, there will be a jam there, which will propagate to the lane turning left into the lot and the lane turning right into the lot. I doubt there will be much impact on flows outside Avalon, though.

    1. Since this was my first experience with a Council meeting, I was wondering about a couple of things: must one sign up in advance in order to speak, and must one state their full name and address (the only ones who didn’t do this were the Avalon residents)?

      1. Yes, there are comment cards available in the back of City Hall or from City Clerk Coty Thigpen. You fill these out and hand them in. That being said, on occasions with less “notoriety” the Mayor (or Mayor pro tem) generally recognizes you if you raise your hand. Yes, you state your name and address. Quite a few people state the address of their place of business.

    2. You win citizen of the month award, Shawn, for going to the meeting and making some very sound and rational comments above. Yes, it was a 3 hour feel good moment (except from poor Ms. Debbie Downer who actually LIVES in Avalon and had the nerve to give actual real live, practical reasons why she didn’t want a fast food restaurant across the street).

  2. Well Said ! People only care about what`s “popular” and talked about . Not what REALLY impacts us as a whole ! Wake up people

  3. So people and council were fighting to put an MSG factory right near a whole foods…lol. Chick-Fil-a is full of MSG (check ingredients on their website). So residents will pay a fortune for organic produce at whole foods and wash it down with mass produced MSG fried chicken sandwich? gross. Don’t eat there people. The ingredients are just plain yuck. And for the love of God don’t let your children eat this stuff.

  4. Julie, I really can’t have much sympathy for “Debbie Downer” in this case – Avalon as a commercial entity will never survive without numerous non Avalon residents visiting the development. Those who choose to live there have already chosen to live in a commercial development, so the concern about the “type” of commercial development rings hollow. Particularly since, of all potential commercial neighbors, I think CFA have proven over the years to be a good commercial neighbor wherever they locate. Besides, Avalon already has an “experiental” gas station across the street in the Raceway, so what’s the big deal about a CFA?

    1. I thought the same — when you sign up to live in Avalon, you *know* you will be jammed up against commercial entities (and your neighbors), with lots of non-Avalon folks “invading” your area.

  5. I always thought CFA would be well suited for Avalon and make a ton of money! I wish I was going to be the operator!

    Lots of people said there is not a quick and inexpensive food option at Avalon. Have they not been in Whole Foods?

    Julie – I looked for you at the meeting to introduce myself but didn’t spot you. Now, I know why…

    Shawn – The proposed Old Roswell Plaza design would not eliminate any parking. It would beautify the area behind Sis & Moons. The goal was to create some seating and make the area more appealing while tying in the changes with the changes done to Jones Alley. The need for seating during Food Truck Thursday was brought up. (I would expect that event to move across the street to City Center at some point though.) The estimated cost based on the conceptual sketch is $75-$125K. The Council liked the design but no funding source has been identified to pay for it, and there are tons of other capital projects. (I heard mention of a possible bond referendum or millage rate hike to pay for the backlog! This Council does like to spend.) So, this project is on hold until funding can be identified.

    Link to Concept Sketch: http://alpharettaga.boardsync.com/Web/GenFile.aspx?ad=363

    1. Craig, Thanks for above. I also get take out from Whole Foods on occasion, so yes, they are a fast option and definitely left out of the discussion last night. I do feel bad for The El Felix – getting slammed for the alleged $17 taco and all that. I’ve been ambivalent about The El Felix, but overall, Ford Fry is a master and killing it in the restaurant world.
      Thanks for the explanation about Old Roswell Plaza and for the link. – Julie

  6. Julie,

    Thanks so much for this article. On a monthly basis we have such a variety of issues that impact our daily lives. The opportunity to impact the issues for citizens is rarely mobilized.
    For or against; if I agree or disagree with you. Your writing is always informative and factual. You do a great job mobilizing citizens on a variety of issues.
    Thank You,
    Ben Burnett
    Recreation and Parks Commission

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