Prince Frederick, MD – The much-anticipated plan to build and operate a Chick Fil A restaurant in Calvert County was on the agenda of the county’s Board of Appeals Thursday, Feb. 2. The Prince Frederick property owners seeking to bring the iconic fast food franchise to Prince Frederick are seeking permission to provide fewer parking spaces than the local law requires. To do that the applicants must obtain a variance from the county. The applicant, CG Properties LLC, sought to obtain an administrative variance from the Calvert County Department of Community Planning and Building. The variance the applicant was seeking would have allowed for a 15 percent reduction in required parking. To obtain the variance all of the adjacent property owners would have had to indicate in writing support for the requested reduction. However, the owners of the Prince Frederick Ruby Tuesday’s stated they objected to the proposed reduction.
The three member appeals board, along with their attorney, did not believe it was the panel’s place to rule on the variance request at this time. Board Chairman D.O. Baker indicated the site plan should go before the Calvert County Planning Commission before the Board of Appeals weighs in on the project. “Why are you here?” Baker asked.
Agent Dan Kelsh of Collinson, Oliff and Associates explained that since the administrative variance was denied, county zoning regulations now require applicants to go to the Board of Appeals. Baker requested an overview of the project. During his testimony, Kelsh confirmed that the Planning Commission has not conducted a site plan review but did note that the plans were shown to that board for informational purposes last fall. Revisions of the original plan have been made, including a reduction in the size of the building.
“More than half our building is kitchen,” said John Martinez of Chick Fil A’s national headquarters. Martinez explained that the franchise make the planned building smaller by eliminating some of the popular amenities like the play area, but “we don’t want to do that. We’ve waited a long time to come here. We want to serve the community.”
Martinez added that while Chick Fil A encourages customers to dine in, 55 percent of its business comes from customers using the drive-up window. The corporate policy calls for restaurant employees to expedite window orders so as to prevent “stacking.” Martinez expressed confidence the current site plan would avoid drive-up traffic from backing up on Route 2/4.
Another component of the plan is a planned connection to Costley Way, which is envisioned as a way to ease potential gridlock involving Route 2/4 motorists driving to the restaurant. Kelsh indicated the presence of wetlands between the parcel and Costley Way might require construction of a retaining wall.
The Board of Appeals voted to accept the applicant’s current site plan but also voted unanimously to defer any action until the Planning Commission reviews the current proposal. “I can’t grant a variance for something that hasn’t been approved or denied,” said Baker. The item could be returned to the board’s agenda as early as April.
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