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Council approves fast-food eatery

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Fredericksburg City Council on Tuesday approved construction of a Burger King restaurant as part of the Cowan Crossings development that backs to the Westwood subdivision.

The approval of a special use permit by a 4–3 vote includes conditions that must be met after several residents expressed concern about fumes from the restaurant’s charbroiled food.

The council discussed the issue for nearly an hour and voted on a proposal by Councilman Brad Ellis to restrict the hours by requiring a 10 p.m. closure. That motion failed after only Ellis and Councilwoman Kerry Devine supported it.

The conditions attached to the permit’s approval Tuesday night require Cowan Crossings developer, the Silver Cos., to do the following:

  • Construct a right-turn lane on southbound U.S. 1 into the Cowan Crossing site at the entrance on U.S. 1 at Spotsylvania Avenue before an Occupancy Permit will be issued.
  • Construct the Burger King building with brick, split block or stone on all exterior façades.
  • Install and annually inspect a catalytic converter or other device that would reduce emissions from the restaurant’s charbroiler. The charbroiler and control device combination must be maintained and inspected annually with reports filed by Oct. 31 of each year with the city’s zoning administrator.
  • Create a 30-foot buffer yard along the rear property line, between the site and the adjoining residential areas on Keeneland Road. The buffer must include an earthen berm 6 to 10 feet tall, a solid fence that is eight feet tall on top of the berm, and a double row of evergreen and deciduous trees planted on the berm near the fence.

The project must also comply with the city’s Unified Development Ordinance.

Prior to the vote approving the permit, Councilman George Solley expressed concern about approving the fast-food restaurant as part of a commercial-transitional project, worrying about the precedent it would set.

Solley, Devine and Ellis voted against approving the special-use permit.

Fast-food restaurants were not allowed at that site under previous zoning requirements, but are now allowed with a special-use permit under the Unified Development Ordinance that the council gave preliminary approval this fall.

Eight of 11 people who spoke at a Nov. 26 public hearing on the Burger King opposed the restaurant. They expressed concern about pollution from particulates emanating from the equipment used for cooking as well as odor.

Three of the 11 spoke again on Tuesday, expanding their points but not changing their positions.

Paul and Hannah Fallon continued to express objection to the project and City Police Chief David Nye, who lives behind the project, reiterated his support.

Nye also expressed concern about the message it sends to the business community if a developer does all it can to mitigate the impact of a project on nearby residents and still does not gain city approval.

Paul Fallon suggested the developer find a more desirable restaurant, and possibly a locally owned one. Among the issues he brought up on Tuesday was the amount of traffic the fast-food restaurant would bring. He said it would add more than 700 trips per day compared to an office in the development estimated to bring 50 trips per day.

Cowan Crossings is an 8-acre development being built on U.S. 1 at the intersection with Cowan Boulevard. The property is zoned commercial transitional.

At the council’s Nov. 12 meeting, it unanimously approved a special-use permit for a CVS Pharmacy there after discussing concerns about a 24-hour drive-through at that store. First Citizens Bank purchased 1.7 acres of the site for one of its branches.

Burger King would sit on 1.02 acres, be about 3,000 square feet, have 76–80 seats for customers and have a single drive-thru lane.

The city’s planning staff recommended approval with the conditions.

In other action on Tuesday, City Council discussed a proposal by Councilman Fred Howe to create a budget advisory board that would be made up of seven people, including two council members, the city manager, a senior staff member, and three citizens with knowledge of accounting principles and government processes and the ability to analyze financial challenges.

Howe, who is in the final months of his tenure, said he wants to institute a system that’s more proactive and gets a better sense of public sentiment before the council is faced with the challenges of making cuts or raising taxes.

He expects the council to be faced with a $2.5 million revenue deficit for the next budget, which would translate into a 10-cent real estate tax hike.

His goal is to have the advisory board in place by mid-March to help with that budget. Ultimately, he would like to see a group established to operate year-round.

No decision was made. However, comments Tuesday night suggest Howe does not have sufficient support to move the idea forward.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972