Action on North Jacksonville Chick-fil-A deferred after revised traffic impact study raises due process concerns

The fast-food chain wants to build a double drive-thru that would be accessed via the North Creek community entrance.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 10:52 p.m. April 16, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
A Chick-fil-A is planned along Lady Lake Road west of a Publix-anchored Duval Station Centre. Access to the fast food restaurant is from the North Creek subdivision to the west and through the Publix parking lot to the east.
A Chick-fil-A is planned along Lady Lake Road west of a Publix-anchored Duval Station Centre. Access to the fast food restaurant is from the North Creek subdivision to the west and through the Publix parking lot to the east.
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Neighbors of a proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant near the North Creek neighborhood and First Coast High School expressed outrage April 16 after learning that a required traffic impact report for the eatery had been changed significantly shortly before it was considered by the City Council Land Use and Zoning Committee.

Several residents said they came to the meeting prepared to discuss what they described as numerous inaccuracies and discrepancies in the 600-page study, which Council members ordered after the restaurant drew heavy opposition from neighbors.

Instead, they learned that the report they had read was a first draft that had been revised so recently that several LUZ committee members hadn’t seen it. Neighbors used terms like “shenanigans,” “deceptive tactics” and “slap in the face” to describe the surfacing of the new report and urged committee members not to vote on it.

Approval of the traffic report would advance the rezoning request toward a final vote by the Council. 

“All the neighbors here tonight have tried to keep emotion out of it, but you’re making it really hard,” said North Creek resident Christine Brundage. 

She added, “How are you going to vote tonight when you don’t know what the report says?”

Due process concerns

After Senior Assistant General Counsel Jason Teal told committee members that the inability of neighbors to review the revised study and comment on it raised concerns about due process, committee Chair Kevin Carrico continued the public hearing to May 7. The date was later pushed back to June 4 after a conversation between committee member Reggie Gaffney Jr. and residents. 

Jacksonville Planning and Development Department is recommending approval, with conditions, for this plan dated Aug. 2023 for a Chick-fil-A adjacent to the North Creek subdivision across the street from First Coast High School.

City Traffic Engineering Chief Chris Ledew said that in the revised study, Chick-fil-A agreed to install a new traffic light at Bradley Cove Road and Duval Station Road and the First Coast High driveway. The restaurant chain also would install a right-turn lane into the restaurant site at Bradley Cove Road and Lady Lake Road. Ledew said the company would pay for the improvements at a cost he estimated at $1 million to $1.3 million.

The first draft of the report, which was delivered to the city April 3, said those improvements weren’t needed. The study was conducted by NV5 Engineers and Consultants Inc. of Alpharetta, Georgia, for Bohler Engineering of Tampa, which is listed in city documents as the site engineer for the developer, Chick-fil-A of Atlanta.

Ledew said that the traffic department reviewed the study and came to different conclusions. He said it is standard for traffic engineers to examine studies and apply local knowledge to them. 

The public hearing began despite a motion by Gaffney to defer it. Gaffney said he had been given a copy of the revised study the morning of the hearing and hadn’t had time to read it.

“I think it’s totally unfair to myself and my constituents” to hold the hearing, he said. Gaffney is the District 8 Council member and the restaurant site is in his district. 

Project history

The project dates to early 2023, when Chick-fil-A confirmed it was planning a double drive-thru restaurant on a vacant 1.39-acre site between Duval Station and Lady Lake roads near the Publix-anchored and -owned Duval Station Centre. 

The site would be accessible through two entrances off of Lady Lake Road, which would require customers to enter through the North Creek subdivision or the Publix parking lot.

The Chick-fil-A site is near homes in the North Creek subdivision. To access the restaurant, cars would enter here along Lady Lake Road.
Photo by Monty Zickuhr

The plans appeared to stall after an initial round of neighborhood opposition, when the city’s former planning chief said during a community meeting that it would recommend denial of the plan. 

Plans resurfaced in December 2023 when legislation for the rezoning request, Ordinance 2023-0856, was filed. Property owner RBSSSS LLC is seeking the rezoning to allow construction of the restaurant on the vacant 1.39-acre site. 

RBSSSS is managed by Ramzy Bakkar, president of the Bakkar Group in Jacksonville Beach. Documents included in the rezoning application say the developer is Chick-fil-A in Atlanta.

A Chick-fil-A is proposed across the street from First Coast High School along Duval Station Road. A sign reading "Shopping Center Coming Soon" is at the site.

In 2014, the city approved a McDonald’s restaurant with a single-lane drive-thru on the site. That restaurant, which would have had access from Duval Station Road, was not built.

Neighbors say the proposed Chick-fil-A would create traffic safety problems and would reduce access to North Creek. They’ve also raised concerns about lighting and trash, and say the restaurant would lower the property values of nearby homes.

Errors in original draft

Neighbors said that among the errors in the original draft of the traffic plan, it listed Duval Station Road as a four-lane, median-divided collector road when it is actually two lanes. 

The 600-page first draft of the report said the restaurant would generate 294 car trips during the morning peak hour, 468 during the midday peak hour and 316 during the evening peak hour, numbers based on traffic studies at six Jacksonville Chick-fil-A locations.

The increased traffic will have a “nominal impact” on nearby intersections, the study concludes, and will not require the installation of a new traffic light at the intersection of Duval Station Road and Bradley Cove Road and the First Coast High School driveway. Nor would “geometric improvements” be required at nearby intersections. 

Regarding concerns that traffic will back up onto Duval Station Road, the study says the proposed restaurant’s dual drive-thrus will be able to handle 19 cars per lane for a total of 38 cars, which would be the largest number of queued cars 95% of the time based on examination of the other six Chick-fil-A sites. 

Thirty-eight cars can fit on the project site, the study says, but building the project with one drive-thru would likely cause cars to back up onto Duval Station Road.



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