The council moved 5-0, with council member Randy Brewer absent, to accept only two of the proposed six variances as recommended by the city planning commission.
The approved requests include allowing two drive-thru menu boards rather than one and increasing the allowed size of each board. However, the council voted to deny increasing the building setback line, reducing the minimum building frontage cover, allowing parking along the side facing Ridgewalk Parkway and increasing the maximum impervious area.
The fast-food chain plans to build a restaurant on just over an acre lot located at the southwest corner of the main entrance to the Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta off Interstate 575 and Ridgewalk Parkway. Developer Horizon Group Properties owns the parcel as well as the adjacent shopping center.
Under the plans, McDonald’s customers would only be able to access the restaurant from a street inside the outlet mall development and would have to drive around the building twice to enter, pay for their food and exit the lot.
“Essentially, they’re going to have to really circle the building twice to really get in and out of the drive-thru,” Community Development Director Jessica Guinn said.
Representing McDonald’s, attorney Kathy Zickert said from an operational standpoint, the variances would make the compact site much safer for all customers and those in the area.
Zickert said the plan improves the circulation of cars around the building and allows 22 vehicles to encircle on the building versus the seven allowed for in the original site plan, which she said might lead to overflow onto the roadway.
Four residents from the nearby Meridian at Ridgewalk subdivision voiced concerns about the requested variances, including additional traffic and noise brought on by the changes.
Meridian resident Ronnie Smith said many seniors live in the neighborhood and the variances might make the area too loud and unsafe for the elderly.
“McDonald’s should have understood the regulations and the stipulations of the city and the planning commission before they started these variances,” Smith said.
Resident Tom Holtz agreed, saying Horizon Properties “should go back to the drawing board” to create a large enough parcel for McDonald’s to build a restaurant under the present stipulations.
“The city of Woodstock doesn’t need to change what they’ve got,” Holtz said. “We’ve worked too hard and put too much money into it. We need to stick to it.”
To answer their concerns, Zickert said the vast majority of traffic going to McDonald’s is already on the road and added it’s a “drop in the bucket” compared to the outlet shops as a whole.
Councilmember Chris Casdia said he thought the variances requested showed the applicant isn’t trying to conform or comply with the vision city officials have for the Ridgwalk area.
“The variances are just, in my opinion, kind of drastic when you compare to the vision and the plan that’s already been laid out,” Casdia said.
Guinn said McDonald’s could discuss with Horizons about changing the dimensions of the site through the city’s administrative plat process to add additional width.
“My understanding is it’s about 30 to 35 feet difference between what (neighboring) Chick-fil-A has and what the site McDonald’s is supposing to go on to has,” she said.