In 4-3 vote, Planning Commission recommends approval for North Jacksonville Chick-fil-A

“Would you want a fast-food restaurant 12 steps away from your door?” asks a resident who lives nearby.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 4:29 p.m. February 8, 2024
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A Chick-fil-A restaurant is planned near the entrance to the North Creek subdivision in North Jacksonville across from First Coast High School. "Would you want a fast-food restaurant 12 steps away from your door?” said Tracy Terry, a North Creek resident.
A Chick-fil-A restaurant is planned near the entrance to the North Creek subdivision in North Jacksonville across from First Coast High School. "Would you want a fast-food restaurant 12 steps away from your door?” said Tracy Terry, a North Creek resident.
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Over the objections of several residents living near a proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant along Duval Station Road near First Coast High School, the Jacksonville Planning Commission voted Feb. 8 to recommend approval of the contentious project.

The commission voted 4-3 in favor of an ordinance to rezone the North Jacksonville property to allow for construction of the restaurant. 

Chair Charles Garrison, Vice Chair Tina Meskel and members Amy Fu and Michael McGowan voted in favor, while Ali Marar, Jack Meeks and Lamonte Carter voted against it. 

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.

The vote came after about two dozen residents turned out to oppose the restaurant.

Several voiced concerns that the project would generate traffic congestion and reduce traffic safety, put students at risk, raise the probability of flooding from rainwater runoff, and bring down property values of homes in the nearby North Creek subdivision. 

Some opponents focused on the close proximity of the proposed restaurant to their homes. 

“Do I want lights shining in my home, in my kitchen every day? No,” said Tracy Terry, a North Creek resident. “I ask you to put yourself in my shoes. Would you want a fast-food restaurant 12 steps away from your door?”

North Creek resident Veronica Shaw offered a similar comment, encouraging commissioners to endorse the rezoning only if they would also vote to allow construction of a fast-food restaurant in their backyard.

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

“I don’t want to see the lights. I don’t want to hear people ordering chicken all night,” she said.

Neighbors also questioned the need for the restaurant considering that Chick-fil-A operates a restaurant in River City Marketplace along Interstate 95, a short drive west of North Creek. 

“The existing Chick-fil-A is less than two miles away,” said Robin Hood, a Jacksonville attorney who lives in the area. “I can run that far.”

Tom Ingram, an attorney representing the developer, said the proposed restaurant would provide customers with an alternative to the establishment in River City Marketplace. 

“The intent is to try to provide a better experience for customers by having a restaurant here rather than try to accommodate everything at one restaurant off the interstate,” he said.

Project returns

Legislation for the rezoning request, Ordinance 2023-0856, was filed last year after a similar plan for a Chick-fil-A at the site was floated in early 2023 but then appeared to vanish after drawing opposition from neighbors.

Property owner Ramzy Bakkar of the Bakkar Group and Chick-fil-A propose building a restaurant with a two-lane drive-thru at the site. 

Access to the Chick-fil-A planned in North Jacksonville across from First Coast High School would be through the Bradley Cove Road entrance to the North Creek subdivision.
Photo by Monty Zickuhr

As shown in a site plan, access to the restaurant is from Lady Lake Drive, with motorists entering through the North Creek subdivision entrance on Bradley Cove Road or through the neighboring Publix Super Markets shopping center parking lot.

Planning and Development Department staff recommended approval of the rezoning request with two conditions: calling for a traffic study and for the developer to submit an exterior lighting design plan that follows staff specifications on types, levels and materials for lights. 

The Planning Commission’s vote to recommend the project included those conditions. 

The Chick-Fil-A site was approved for a McDonald’s in 2015, but that restaurant was never built. Plans included an entrance from Duval Station Road and Bradley Cove Drive with fewer parking spaces and a smaller drive-thru than Chick-fil-A’s project.

A rezoning for the project was approved in 2015 to allow for construction of a McDonald’s restaurant with a single drive-thru lane.

Developers have the option of building the Chick-fil-A to the specifications of that rezoning, but say that consumer behavior has changed since 2015, resulting in a need for greater capacity to handle drive-thru traffic. 

The developers said the new plan allows for more cars on the site, reducing spillover into the surrounding community.

Neighbors said it was likely that cars in the drive-thru lines would back up onto Lady Lake Road, choking off the single-lane road and preventing them from getting into and out of the neighborhood. 

“An improvement for your neighborhood”

At the Feb. 8 meeting, McGowan said the proposed plan reconfigured the McDonald’s plan to move ordering speakers and trash bins farther away from neighboring homes, soften lighting and improve traffic safety by changing the ingress/egress point.

“I think it’s an improvement for your neighborhood – an improvement from what has already been accepted and could be done tomorrow,” he said.

Meeks and Carter signaled that neighbors’ concerns over traffic, runoff, noise and other issues resonated with them. 

In February 2023, Folks Huxford, then chief of planning for the city, told residents at a neighborhood meeting the department would recommend denying the rezoning request for the Chick-fil-A, shown in this Oct. 2022 site plan.

In early 2023, the then-chief of planning for the city told residents at a neighborhood meeting that the department would recommend denying the rezoning request. That official, Folks Huxford, has since left the city and is director of community development for Baker County. 

The city said it could not speak to the reasoning behind a former administration’s decision-making. 

At the Feb. 8 Planning Commission meeting, staff offered no explanation for the change in posture on the project. 

More steps pending

The commission’s vote wasn’t the city’s final say on the project. The rezoning request is scheduled to return before the City Council Land Use and Zoning Committee and the full Council, which will decide whether to adopt the planning commission’s recommendation. 

To access the Chick-fil-A, customers could enter the Publix-anchored and -owned Duval Station Centre shopping center to reach Lady Lake Road.
Photo by Monty Zickuhr

Neighbors have banded against the project several times. 

Because of a scheduling error, public hearings are being held in two rounds before both the Council and LUZ. The first rounds of those hearings brought out dozens of residents in opposition to the project, and more are expected as the public hearings wrap up later this month. 

Public hearings on the rezoning are scheduled for Feb. 13 before the Council and Feb. 21 before the LUZ committee in advance of a final vote by the full Council scheduled for Feb. 27.



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