Council committee backs contentious Chick-fil-A in North Jacksonville

A rezoning request for the restaurant advances to the full Council after a 6-1 vote.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 12:00 a.m. June 5, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
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.
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
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A Jacksonville City Council committee sided with developers of a proposed Chick-fil-A near First Coast High School on June 4, sending a rezoning request for the restaurant to the full Council with a recommendation for approval despite heavy objections from residents near the site.

The Council Land Use and Zoning Committee voted 6-1 to rezone the property near the Publix-anchored Duval Station Centre across Duval Station Road from the high school.

Reggie Gaffney Jr.

The lone no vote was cast by Council member Reggie Gaffney Jr., whose District 8 includes the site of the proposed restaurant. Yes votes came from committee chair Kevin Carrico and members Rory Diamond, Rahman Johnson, Joe Carlucci, Raul Arias and Ken Amaro. The vote advances Ordinance 2023-0856, which contains the rezoning request, to the full Council for a final vote.

The committee’s action came after more than two dozen residents turned out to register opposition to the double drive-thru restaurant. 

Gaffney urged committee members to side with the neighbors, who voiced concerns about traffic safety, congestion, crime and a reduction of property values stemming from the restaurant. Several said traffic generated by the restaurant would back up into the nearby North Creek neighborhood and block residents trying to reach their homes and emergency vehicles responding to calls from the subdivision. 

Gaffney said Chick-fil-A and the developer had done too little to address the concerns. He said that if neighbors were defeated, “I won’t be able to sleep tonight. I won’t.” He added that it was “heartbreaking to see my colleagues not meet the community halfway.”

The vote followed nearly three hours of discussion and comments from neighbors, starting with a public hearing on a traffic study on the restaurant. 

The site plan for the proposed Chick-fil-A adjacent to the North Creek subdivision in North Jacksonville.

The 658-page study said the restaurant would have a “nominal impact on traffic operations” in generating 4,482 car trips per day, defined as vehicles arriving and leaving. The city is requiring a new traffic light at Bradley Cove and Duval Station roads, which Chick-fil-A is funding, and a continuous right-turn lane into the restaurant. 

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.

Mark David Clark, a North Creek resident, noted that the traffic counts in the study amounted to a 262% increase in traffic. He noted that there were no criteria to define the term “nominal.” 

“Maybe a 262% increase is nominal in Atlanta, but I’d call it extreme in Jacksonville,” he said.

Access to the restaurant is from Lady Lake Drive, with customers arriving by car entering through the North Creek subdivision entrance on Bradley Cove Road or through the neighboring Publix Super Markets shopping center parking lot. Several homes are within a few hundred feet of the restaurant site. 

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.

Discussion among committee members included suggestions to add an entrance off of Duval Station Road or closing off Lady Lake and Bradley Cove roads. 

Chris Ledew, chief of the city Traffic Engineering Division, recommended against closing Lady Lake and Bradley Cove, saying it would funnel more traffic onto Duval Station Road and inhibit traffic flow on that road. He said having a “network of roads” was preferable to channeling traffic into one place. 

Tom Ingram, an attorney representing the property owner, said adding an entrance off of Duval Station Road would remove parking from the site and disrupt queuing at the drive-thrus.

“We really did look at that, because of community feedback,” he said. “And after a lot of review, we concluded it would be worse.”

Jennifer Santelli, principal development lead with Chick-fil-A corporate in Atlanta, said the typical peak traffic at one of the chain’s restaurants is 25 cars. As designed, the proposed restaurant could handle 38 queued cars on its site. 

She said cars could back up “maybe at the grand opening,” but “as a regular course of business this traffic is going to stay on our site.” 

Committee members voted 5-2 against an amendment to create an entrance off of Duval Station Road as a condition for the site plan, with Gaffney and Johnson casting the votes in favor. 

Council member Mike Gay, who attended the meeting as a non-member of the committee, also encouraged the committee to listen to the community’s concerns.

“We all know what (traffic) this restaurant will draw, and we really need to be cautious,” he said.

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 site was rezoned in 2015 for a fast-food restaurant with a single drive-thru. That site plan included an entrance off of Duval Station Road. 

Arias said that if the rezoning for Chick-fil-A were denied, another restaurant would likely be built under the old site plan. He said the Chick-fil-A franchise, which closes on Sundays and doesn’t operate overnight, was a “better fit for the neighborhood” than a franchise like McDonald’s or Taco Bell. 

Diamond asked resident Christine Brundage why, if she had a choice between a 24-hour Taco Bell and a Chick-fil-A, she’d opt against the Chick-fil-A.

“This isn’t about a Chick-fil-A or a Taco Bell,” Brundage said. “To me, it comes down to any business using a residential neighborhood as the entrance to their business.” 

Plans for the Chick-fil-A emerged in early 2023, when the restaurant chain confirmed it was planning the project on the vacant 1.39-acre site. 

The plans went dark amid an initial round of opposition from neighbors, with the city’s former planning chief saying during a community meeting that the Planning and Development Department would recommend denial. 

In December 2023, legislation to rezone the property to Planned Unit Development was filed through the LUZ Committee. The request is contained in Ordinance 2023-0856. 

In February, the planning department recommended conditional approval of the plan, calling for a traffic study and for low-impact lighting. The Jacksonville Planning Commission recommended passage of the rezoning in February on a 4-3 vote. 

The rezoning request has been deferred several times since. In mid-April, the LUZ Committee deferred it after residents complained that the traffic study had been revised hours before it was scheduled to be discussed. 

Using terms like “shenanigans,” “deceptive tactics” and “slap in the face” to describe the situation, residents urged committee members not to vote on the rezoning but instead grant extra time for decision-makers and residents to review the study. 



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