A zoning request that could allow Zack’s Hot Dogs to set up a second location has apparently cut the mustard with Burlington’s planning and zoning commission.
During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the commission voted 3-to-1 to endorse this request – which, if ultimately approved by Burlington’s city council, would enable the new owner of Zack’s to establish a restaurant equipped with a drive-thru near South Church Street’s juncture with Meadowood Drive.
Although the planning commission was never explicitly told the identity of this prospective new eatery before its decision, its members were nevertheless left a veritable trail of breadcrumbs that led back to the celebrated hotdog dispensary along Worth Street.
After nearly a century in the hands of Burlington’s Touloupas family, Zack’s was recently sold to business owner John Burton, whose limited liability corporation also purchased the property that’s up for rezoning in April. A further hint as to the restaurant’s identity was divulged by Mandi Clift, an architect in the property owner’s employ who presented the project to the planning commission on Monday.
“The owner has purchased a local restaurant and would like to set up a second location. It is not going to be a fast-food chain, and we’re expecting to have 80 seats max in the restaurant.”
– Architect Mandi Clift
“The owner has purchased a local restaurant and would like to set up a second location,” Clift elaborated when the addressed this appointed advisory board over the Zoom teleconferencing platform. “It is not going to be a fast-food chain,” she added, “and we’re expecting to have 80 seats max in the restaurant.”
The property that Burton has picked out for this venture consists of 1.105 acres at 3158 South Church Street that was most recently home to Select Bank, before that bank’s merger with First Bank, which already had a location just down the street. Originally built as a branch for Graham-based Alamance National Bank about two decades ago, the location has been home to a series of bank branches.
Clift told the planning commission that her client wants to make use of the existing bank building, along with its drive-thru, for the new restaurant he has in the works. She conceded, however, that the property’s current office and institutional zoning only allows sit-down restaurants, which has prompted her client to file his rezoning request to repurpose the bank’s drive-thru for the new eatery.
Couched as a “limited use” request for general business zoning, Burton’s proposal specifies five potential uses out of the whole catalog of possibilities that the city permits in a general business district. In addition to the aforementioned drive-thru restaurant, these potential uses include financial services, a childcare center, a medical office, and other unspecified retail activities.
This curtailed application for general business zoning received a nod of approval from the members of Burlington’s planning staff. Yet, it did not go over as readily with a handful of neighbors who were on hand for the planning commission’s meeting.
Neighbors across the street not enthused by prospect of a restaurant that would bring more traffic
The critics of this rezoning request included Donald James of Meadowood Drive, who recalled that he and his neighbors had previously fought tooth and nail to prevent a conventional retail business from setting up shop in their area.
[Story continues below photographs of concerned neighbors who spoke at the planning board meeting.]
CONCERNED NEIGHBORS SPEAK OUT
James’ recollections were echoed by fellow Meadowood homeowner John Wadiak.
“All I’ve been doing since I’ve been here in 1985 is fighting rezoning.” Wadiak informed the commission’s members. “Why do you allow this? You’re supposed to protect the citizenry.”
Wadiak’s appeals were reinforced by his wife Carol, who complained about the additional traffic a drive-thru restaurant might bring to the intersection. The prospect of more vehicles also sounded alarm bells for the Wadiak’s next-door neighbor Imran Quazi.
“Every passing day traffic increases,” Quazi told the commission that evening. “There are more accidents, and it gets more commercialized…We want it to be as less commercialized as possible.”
Getting enough members to vote
In the end, a majority of the planning commission resolved not to impede the expansion of general business zoning along this section of Church Street. Its members nevertheless came precariously close to rendering no opinion at all after the recusal of two members left the group without the four-person quorum it needed to vote on the matter.
James Kirkpatrick, the commission’s newly named vice chairman, had been the first to bow out of the decision on account of his friendship with the property owner. Kirkpatrick’s example was then followed by the group’s newest member Charlie Beasley, who attributed his recusal to a business relationship he has with the tenants on a neighboring lot.
The recusals of both Beasley and Kirkpatrick would’ve left just three members to hear Burton’s request – or one member shy of the four-person quorum needed to vote on any particular item. In light of this predicament, long-time member John Black urged Kirkpatrick to reconsider the conflict posed by his friendship with the property owner.
“That being the case,” he added, “you might as well step down being friends with just about everyone.”
Kirkpatrick went on to rescind his recusal request, although Beasley remained adamant that his business relationship should preclude him from taking part in the vote.
In any event, the commission was able to attain the necessary quorum to vote – with Kirkpatrick and Black joining fellow member Lee Roane in supporting Burlington’s request. The group’s longtime chairman Richard Parker cast the lone vote of opposition, clearing the way for the proposed zoning change to go before Burlington’s city council next month.
Another location also being considered
In a subsequent interview with The Alamance News, John Burton conceded that the property at 3158 South Church Street isn’t the only one he’s considering a possible site for an additional location of Zack’s.
“That is the primary location,” he added. “We have another location that we are looking at as well. But it will be [a second] Zack’s if we decide to go there.”
Read earlier coverage of John Burton’s purchase of Zack’s: https://alamancenews.com/new-owner-takes-over-zacks-in-burlington/