The residents of a Daphne neighborhood have a beef with the proposed location of a Hardee’s restaurant near the intersection of U.S. 90 and State Highway 181 being pushed by the city’s mayor.
Residents of the Historic Malbis subdivision are concerned about traffic issues the burger joint may cause near the busy intersection and many are also upset that Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood is brokering the deal to bring the restaurant to the location.
“I don’t understand how that’s legal,” said resident Jennifer Miller. “I don’t understand how that’s ethical. I don’t think you can be a mayor and a developer.”
Resident Michelle Shelly said the proposed restaurant, which will sit between a Zaxby’s and the Malbis Shell station on 181, would make a bad traffic problem even worse, especially, she said, during the morning commute.
“That intersection can’t handle any more traffic on school mornings,” Shelly said.
She said the traffic concerns need to be addressed before any development should be placed there. Miller said residents constantly deal with drivers cutting through the subdivision, using a private road to avoid a traffic light, or as a shortcut to the businesses.
“I normally walk my kids to school down Emmanuel Street,” she said.
Haygood said the burger chain’s corporate office told him an average Hardee’s store does less business than an average Zaxby’s and there won’t be as much of a traffic concern as there was with the restaurant next door.
Miller said while Zaxby’s owner Hudson Sandifer has been a good neighbor, it doesn’t mean that all the residents were happy about that particular restaurant being located nearby.
“Zaxby’s was the exception, not the rule,” Miller said. “Zaxby’s has shown the subdivision residents that no matter how much you mitigate, you can’t get rid of everything.”
Miller said the presence of the Zaxby’s has lowered residents’ property values and added to traffic congestion.
Many residents, like Peggy Poore, believe Hardee’s has no place near the family-oriented community, due to the food chain’s style of advertising. She added that the noise from the drive-through would be a nuisance to residents.
Miller and other residents also complain the project didn’t go through the proper channels and instead was approved by city staff members.
Haygood said the site was approved through an administrative review because it’s a modification of a previous site plan and not a completely new site plan. The site plan originally called for a 6,700-square-foot retail center and was approved in 2011. The plans have since been modified for the 2,400-square-foot restaurant, Haygood said.
“There’s an increase in the amount of landscaping,” Haygood said. “The smaller building means more green space.”
Daphne Community Development Director Adrienne Jones said the project was reviewed by the planning commission in a site preview meeting before it was determined an administrative review by staff was needed.
“That’s standard for any project that has previous approval,” Jones said.
A letter Jones sent to Haygood on March 28, acknowledged that the site plan modifications had been approved. The letter also mentioned the extension of the original site plan was set to expire on May 24.
Planning Commission Chairman Larry Chason said administrative reviews, which don’t need the commission’s approval, are a regular occurrence. He said the process was handled correctly because the site plan had already been approved once and the modifications made the scope of the project smaller. He added that the property is zoned commercial, which is appropriate for fast food restaurants.
“People are upset and I don’t blame them, but the fly got in the ointment a long time ago,” Chason said. “The time to have a concern should have been when it was all put in place. The time to be upset about this was eight or nine years ago when the county zoned it commercial.”
Haygood, the owner of real estate brokerage and development firms Redsouth LLC and H Properties LLC said he had attorney Jason McCormick present the modifications to the planning commission to avoid a conflict of interest.
“It was presented in a public meeting,” Haygood said.
Having a representative present during the meeting was the appropriate step, said Hugh Evans, general counsel for the Alabama Ethics Commission.
“He’s entitled to the same opportunities as everyone else, as long as there’s no conflict of interests,” Evans said.
The community is protected from unwanted businesses coming to the area in front of the neighborhood. For instance, the community’s covenants and restrictions don’t allow for anything associated with adult entertainment, pawn shops or automobile repair shops, among other prohibitions.
However, those same covenants and restrictions specifically allow for restaurants with or without drive-through service, as stipulated in Article II, Section A iii of the neighborhood’s Declaration of Supplemental Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for Business Lots.
The property in question is currently under contract to be sold once the Hardee’s deal is finalized, said landowner Kevin Spriggs. In addition to owning the Malbis Shell at the intersection of Highways 90 and 181, Spriggs is also the president of the Historic Malbis Property Owners’ Association.
Spriggs said the deal was in the works before Haygood became mayor.
“We did all that before he became mayor,” Spriggs said. “We’ve had it under contract, I guess, this is the fourth year.”
Spriggs wouldn’t specify the amount of the contract, but said that it was a six-figure deal.
Spriggs doesn’t live in the community, but said his mother does. He said gridlock is frequent in the area.
“I do have sympathy for the neighbors over general traffic concerns,” he said. “The neighborhood has a legitimate concern, but that issue is going to be an issue whether the Hardee’s is there or not.”
The community’s Architectural Review Board must approve the building plans before it can be constructed on the site, Spriggs said. Neither Spriggs, nor the residents know if the ARB can put a complete stop to the project.
The residents do have a recourse, Jones said. The administrative review can be appealed to the Board of Zoning Adjustments. Miller said residents are looking over the appeals process.