Planned drive-thru could anger neighbors

STALLINGS – John Fisichello’s request to conditionally zone 6 acres in Stallings is causing concern for residents of the Chestnut Creek neighborhood.
The Stallings Planning Board met on Tuesday, Sept. 18, to discuss the request for the construction of up to 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at 2925 Matthews-Weddington Road, currently being called Shops at Chestnut. Conditional zoning is the legislative process that allows the applicant, Fisichello, to ask that the property be zoned for a specific project.
“It is site-specific zoning and allows the town council to place conditions on the property where a straight rezoning does not allow for conditioning,” said Lynne Hair, town planner.
Stallings will conduct a public meeting Oct. 8 to further discuss Fisichello’s request to conditionally zone the land. Citizens are invited to make written or oral comments at the meeting.
According to zoning documents available on the town website, Fisichello, currently of Matthews, intends to build two sit-down restaurants on the site, catering to families. The restaurants would be constructed first as the primary use of the property. To use the rest of the property, Fisichello is proposing a drive-thru restaurant and a retail/office building. He owns Mario’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, at 3016 Weddington Road, and John’s Place Bar in Plantation Market.
“This lot was put up for sale as a potential retail/office site,” Fisichello said. “It is close to our existing restaurants at Plantation Market and we want to stay in this locale.”
Fisichello said he was a long-term area resident and business resident, beginning at the Matthews Festival in 1989 and moving into the present location in 1996. He likes the new location due to its proximity to the existing restaurant and wants his customers to move with him.
“(I) never intended to create any unhappiness with the surrounding residents and want to be good neighbors to the residents and community,” he said.
Hair said the drive-thru restaurant part of the proposal could create conflict.
“The underlying zoning does not allow for drive-thru restaurants,” she said. “Also, the proximity to residential property does not make it conducive to drive–thru restaurant use.”
The zoning documents note that, while the underlying zoning does not allow for a drive-thru restaurant, the town council has the ability to allow it as a part of the conditional zoning process.
The proposed project will have a single entrance off of Matthews-Weddington Road, which will require a left turn lane which has been included in the site plan for the development. Although traffic congestion has been a concern for residents, zoning documents said no traffic light will be placed.
Staff comments on the zoning included recognition of the conflict with neighboring residential areas, and belief that while the retail and/or office portion of the project is in keeping with the land-use plan, reducing overall square footage is necessary:
“The applicant is proposing a density on the property that may be in direct conflict with the surrounding neighborhood. However, if the scale of the project were reduced, it can be anticipated that the proposed restaurant may benefit the town as a whole.”
As far as the drive-thru restaurant is concerned, staff comments noted, “a drive-thru restaurant is not compatible with the adjacent residential development.”
The town put forth a list of conditions recommended to be part of the conditional zoning process. Some of these include: limiting the property to a maximum 12,000 square feet of building space, rather than the original 25,000; a lighting study provided by the town; limited hours of operation for the restaurants and retail and office space onsite; no drive-thru restaurant; limiting the site to retail, office and sit-down restaurant space; no dumpster located closer than 200 feet from northern and eastern property lines.
These conditions take into account resident concerns about traffic created by a drive-thru restaurant, light spillage from a commercial property, the smell from possible dumpsters located too close to residential properties and any other interruption, inconvenience, lowering of property value or safety hazard to neighboring
communities.

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