Council gives final OK to rezoning for contested North Jacksonville Chick-fil-A

After the 12-7 vote, neighbors plan to explore legal action.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 7:34 p.m. June 11, 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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Opponents of a proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant near First Coast High School say they’ll continue to explore options to stop the project after the Jacksonville City Council gave final approval to a rezoning request for the restaurant June 11. 

Council voted 12-7 to approve a rezoning request for the restaurant, planned for a parcel near the Publix-anchored Duval Station Centre across Duval Station Road from the high school in North Jacksonville.

 Access to the double-drive-thru establishment is off of Lady Lake Road, with customers arriving by car entering through the North Creek subdivision entrance on Bradley Cove Road or through the neighboring shopping center parking lot. 

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.

Votes against the rezoning were cast by members Michael Boylan, Matt Carlucci, Tyrona Clark-Murray, Ju’Coby Pittman, Reggie Gaffney Jr., Mike Gay and Jimmy Peluso. 

Reggie Gaffney Jr.

David Clark, a North Creek subdivision resident, said after the vote that neighbors planned ask Mayor Donna Deegan to veto legislation for the rezoning, Ordinance 2023-0856, and were examining documents related to the neighborhood’s creation to determine whether legal action is possible.

However, an online document prepared by the city's Legislative Services Division to explain the legislative approval process states that quasi-judicial ordinances —  the type that contained the Chick-fil-A rezoning request —  become effective with the signature of the Council president and Council secretary versus the mayor.

Clark was among dozens of residents who spoke against the proposed restaurant numerous times in Council and community meetings, including in a public hearing before the Council in February. In accordance with the Council process, the final consideration did not involve public comment. 

Several Council members self-reported that they had received more than 100 emails on the issue, with the overwhelming majority being against the rezoning. Member Will Lahnen said he had received 181, with all but two opposed.

Clark called the process “disillusioning.” 

“I’m an optimist, and I like to see things glass half-full, but it’s half-empty,” he said. “That’s a sad thing, to come away from this process after hours and hours of investment and leave disappointed and devalued.” 

The proposed restaurant was the topic of dozens of hours of debate at Council and committee meetings after it emerged in early 2023. 

After disappearing for months amid a first round of opposition by the city, the project reemerged in December 2023. 

Neighbors raised concerns about traffic safety, congestion, crime and a reduction of property values stemming from the restaurant.

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

A prime topic of concern is how the double-drive-thru establishment would affect access to the North Creek subdivision on Lady Lake Road. Access to the restaurant is on that road, with customers arriving by car entering through the North Creek entrance on Bradley Cove Road or through the neighboring shopping center parking lot. 

Neighbors contended that at peak times, traffic from the restaurant would spill over and block access to the neighborhood. Representatives of Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A stated that average peak traffic at the chain’s locations in Jacksonville was 25 cars, which could be contained within the 38-spot parking lot that could hold queued traffic. 

Before the final vote, several Council members asked their colleagues to sympathize with neighbors. 

Carlucci referenced a recent University of North Florida poll showing that Council approval was at 48%, and said he believed that one reason the body was “underwater” was its pattern of rulings favoring developers over nearby residents in several high-profile projects. 

Matt Carlucci

“We have a chance to have a group of people who are trying to protect their most valuable investment, to protect their quality of life, to walk out of here happy and not unhappy,” he said. “This is not anything unreasonable, what they’re asking. Let’s turn the corner a little bit on what we’re doing on rezonings. Let’s listen to the people a little harder and put ourselves in their shoes.”

On June 5, the Council Land Use and Zoning Committee voted 6-1 to recommend passage of the rezoning request, contained in Ordinance 2023-0856, after a public hearing on a traffic study for the project. 

The traffic study, paid for by Chick-fil-A, said the restaurant would generate 4,482 car trips per day, defined as vehicles arriving and leaving the parcel. The study said the restaurant would have a “nominal” effect on traffic, but neighbors said it would increase car trips by 262%.

Based on the results of the study, 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. 

Several LUZ members noted that a previous Council had approved rezoning in 2015 for a fast-food restaurant with a single drive-thru, and raised concerns that denying Chick-fil-A’s rezoning request could prompt the chain to sue the city. 

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

Committee members also said that if the rezoning were denied, another restaurant would likely be built under the site plan approved for rezoning in 2015. 

During the June 11 meeting, Gay urged the Council to compromise with neighbors by compelling Chick-fil-A to build in accordance with the 2015 site plan. 

“They’re not saying no to the restaurant, they’re saying go with what’s already zoned,” he said. “I think we need to meet the community halfway.”

Gaffney, whose District 8 includes the restaurant parcel, said Chick-fil-A had done too little to adapt its plans to address the community’s concerns. He said the chain failed to meet a social responsibility to the neighborhood.

“They value good service, working together, but they haven’t been a good partner to the community,” he said.

Based on conversations with neighbors, Gaffney proposed amendments that included sign restrictions, requirements for trees along a buffer strip and a prohibition on walk-up windows. Council approved the amendments. 

Chris Miller

Among Council members who supported the rezoning, only Chris Miller explained his vote. He said the rezoning was “not an easy call” for him, but he narrowly supported it after receiving assurances from traffic engineers that the revisions stemming from the traffic study would ease traffic congestion. 

The rezoning request was granted to property owner RBSSSS LLC, which applied to rezone the land as a Planned Unit Development. 

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



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