Chick-fil-A proposal raises traffic concerns for some

A real estate sign is posted on the parcel developers hope to transform into a Chick-fil-A. (Feb. 25, 2016)

GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Residents and Gaines Township officials met Thursday evening for a public hearing to discuss plans to bring a Chick-fil-A area to the area south of Grand Rapids.

Developers unveiled their plans to build the fast food restaurant at 1545 Edgeknoll Drive, southwest of M-6 and Kalamazoo Avenue, last month.

At the public hearing Thursday evening, officials talked about but did not vote on rezoning the property from office or service use to commercial use.

The zoning change wouldn’t be a difficult process, according to township officials, because the restaurant would be located right next to a Bob Evans restaurant.

“They [Chick-fil-A and Bob Evans] are similar type uses and the Bob Evans is just south of there, so there’s a semi-precedence there, so it wouldn’t be as difficult as in some cases,” said Matt McKernan, the assistant planner for the township.

Some residents in the area are happy about the possibility of a Chick-fil-A moving in, while others are not pleased because they believe it will bring more unwanted traffic.

“It’s starting to feel like Alpine where it’s just a lot of restaurants, businesses and that’s good for a lot of reasons, but I’m starting to feel kind of pinned in my neighborhood, like we are getting forgotten here. It’s turning more into a business district or something,” said Valerie Marek, who has been living in the area for about 18 years.

She has concerns about the Chick-fil-A moving into the area because she was worried that it would mean her dead-end street on Bentree Drive would be opened for traffic.

“I think a lot of my neighbors and I feel kind of lost in that and having to fight some of these changes. Now it’s like nobody realizes this is a family neighborhood and that’s a big concern. I’m wondering if they’re going to stop and remember that people with their kids on bikes and families and stuff live back here,” Marek said.

McKernan, the assistant planner, said there are no plans to create more streets leading to the restaurant.

“There’s been things brought before the planning commission in the past that would have connected that [Bentree Drive dead-end street to 68th street], but those have been denied. So nothing is currently in the works that would make that happen,” McKernan told 24 Hour News 8.

McKernan said there have been traffic studies conducted in the area that found the restaurant will bring about 50 extra trips to the Kalamazoo Avenue and M-6 area during lunch time, but he doesn’t believe the traffic will impact the neighborhood.

“There’s only two entrances to the neighborhood, one on Kalamazoo and one on 68th Street, and I think it would cumbersome to travel up through the neighborhoods to go to that, so I wouldn’t anticipate much traffic impacting the neighborhood beyond where the site is,” he said.

The Viau family who also lives in the neighborhood has mixed feelings about the development project.

“I personally think it’s a good idea. It wouldn’t be too far away from our family,” Michael Viau said.

His wife, Maria, has concerns about the traffic.

“I welcome it to the West Michigan area, I just don’t think it’s appropriate to have it right within our neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a safety issue for our kids around the neighborhood. It’s Chick-fil-A. Everybody is anticipating it. It’s not like they’re putting a McDonald’s in the area where people see McDonald’s all over the place. It’s Chick-fil-A. We don’t have aa Chick-fil-A and it would be the only one in West Michigan and to me, that idea is scary with the traffic.”

Chick-fil-A provided a statement to 24 Hour News 8 today that said:

“We are always evaluating potential new locations in the hopes of serving existing and new customers great food with remarkable service. We hope to serve the Gaines Township community in the future.”

Another meeting will be held next month to discuss the proposed restaurant. If the planning commission eventually votes in favor of the rezoning, the proposal will be passed to the township board for approval.

A spokesperson for the restaurant previously said if they get the support and approval from the community, they hope to start construction and open sometime in 2017.

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