New Arby’s finally approved in Tucker
By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
After months of debating with residents, studying traffic, and redrawing plans, Tucker City Council voted Oct. 28 to approve a drive-thru restaurant at Lawrenceville Highway and Lynburn Drive.
Council members voted 5-2, allowing the rezoning and Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) to green light an Arby’s drive-thru restaurant at 4260 and 4270 Lawrenceville Highway. Arby’s will be one part of an 11,200 sq. ft. commercial development.
Council members Matt Robbins and Noelle Monferdini opposed the rezoning and SLUP because it contradicts council’s goal to create a walkable downtown.
“Recently the City Council adopted plans for our Downtown area that included the overall concept that promotes the development of mixed-use that’s inviting, walkable, and to a human-scale environment. The one paragraph in the overlay district that prominently recalled to my mind and drove my decision was the absolute prohibition of a drive-thru use in the Downtown-3 (DT-3) zoning district,” Monferdini wrote in a statement.
“I believe that the intent of the overlay is to create … [an] inviting, walkable, mixed-use feel of our downtown area. These regulations are designed to work overtime so that new developments adhere to the master planning of what the community ultimately desires: A safe, shoppable, walkable downtown,” she added.
Courtney Smith, deputy director of community development, said the Arby’s application was “grandfathered in” before City Council adopted DT-3 code to prohibit drive-thru establishments and promote walkability in downtown Tucker.
Since June 2019, stakeholders have raised concerns about the SLUP, fearing increased traffic, lack of pedestrian accessibility, and late-night activity.
Seniors from HearthSide Club were again largely in attendance at the City Council meeting, claiming the commercial property will bring “mayhem” and “disaster.”
HearthSide resident Sharon Rosenberger likened the battle between the city and residents to David and Goliath. “I oppose it for all my fellow residents who are sitting here … I oppose it for every child who walks from the high school down to Cofer Crossing. I oppose it for the parents I see who stroll at that intersection. I oppose it for the other disabled residents I see … in wheelchairs, on motorized scooters, and using canes.”
“Until Tucker is able to make this corner safe for us, nothing like this should go in,” she said.
Attorney for GMC Real Estate Acquisitions, Dennis Webb, said the company has gone above and beyond what is required to plan for traffic. He said plans include a deceleration lane, improvements to abutting Railroad Avenue, right turns only entering and leaving the property, and additional sidewalks.
“This development is a lot more than an Arby’s. It’s an 11,200-square foot shopping center that has all the design features that ‘new Tucker’ envisions, like buildings far from the street, wide sidewalks, wide landscaping, open space,” Webb said. “The fact is, the city engineer is the expert witness for Tucker. The city engineer is the expert witness for HearthSide. He is representing them. As he told you tonight, he has reviewed the application. He has reviewed the traffic study and he agrees with the conclusions. So this is not David versus Goliath. This is a contest of equals. Our expert met with your expert and they were able to reach consensus.”
Mayor Frank Auman addressed the room.
“I have one question that’s for anyone from HearthSide who can give me an answer,” Auman said. “Has there been discussion? Have you all as residents, or has the management of HearthSide discussed solutions of your own, like a shuttle from Hearthside to shopping places, either on the other side of Lawrenceville Highway or elsewhere? Has anyone discussed that?”
A woman replied, “I personally like the idea of a walking community. But the answer to your question is no.”
Mayor Auman said, “I’d like to suggest it. Not to be unkind, but I would find it difficult to believe that you all moved in there and thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be great. We’ll just walk right across Lawrenceville Highway whenever we need to go shopping.’ It must have seemed like a daunting prospect. I’d be even more disappointed to find out that if HearthSide somehow used it as a selling point, saying, ‘Yeah look you’re right across the street from Walmart. You can walk over there anytime you want, because that has never been the case as long as I have been around.”
In other transportation news, City Council unanimously approved a $346,214 bid for construction on sidewalks on Idlewood Road between Tucker Middle School to Main Street.
Council also approved a grant application to improve safety at the interchange at US 78 and Mountain Industrial Blvd. Georgia Department of Transportation committed to fund 100 percent of construction, estimated to be $6 million, while Tucker is responsible for engineering costs.
US 78 and Mountain Industrial Blvd is the most dangerous intersection in the city, according to analysis. During the last five years 993 accidents, 262 injuries, and 3 fatalities occurred here.