The Aberdeen Planning Commission approved the site plan for a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the southwest corner of Beards Hill Road and Route 22, arguably the city's busiest intersection, at its Wednesday meeting.
The panel also gave similar approval to an Aldi supermarket planned for Route 40.
The Chick-Fil-A will be next to the Holiday Inn hotel. Chick-fil-A is requesting a subdivision plan approval.
Traffic issues at the already busy intersection raised concerns for planning commission members, who said they are excited to have Chick-fil-A in town but are also worried about the impact on traffic from the restaurant's popularity.
John Landbeck, representing the Aberdeen Fire Department, read a statement from police Lt. Kirk Bane about expecting more crashes at the site.
"The conversation is, when there's an accident there – not if – we're going to have some issues getting to the scene of the accident," Landbeck said.
The intersection was the scene of a fatal accident involving a car and a tractor trailer earlier this year.
The restaurant will be 4,750 square feet and have 52 parking spaces, with one access point off Beards Hill Road that would allow only right turns in and right turns out.
The site plan has incorporated the planned State Highway Administration road improvements for Route 22.
Landbeck suggested eliminating any direct entrance from Beards Hill to Chick-fil-A and using an access road near the former Harco lot, or possibly from West Bel Air Avenue.
"The folks from the fire department are very excited to have Chick-fil-A," he said but added: "We have very serious concerns about the ingress and egress combined with the fact that the main entrance to Olive Tree is less than 30 feet to that entrance."
"We anticipate a myriad of problems at that site," Landbeck said.
Commission member Terry Preston said she frequents the Hunt Valley Chick-fil-A, where the cars often stretch out of the parking lot and down the road.
"I am a huge Chick-fil-A fan," Preston said. "I can see that it is going to be so popular that they are going to be lined up and it's the traffic flow that concerns me."
Joseph Uciferro, of Bohler Engineering, said the Hunt Valley site recently got a second order point, which the Aberdeen restaurant will also have.
Matthew Stellmaker, representing Chick-fil-A, said the Aberdeen site will also have more room for stacking cars than the Hunt Valley restaurant.
He said the average Chick-fil-A restaurant processes 205 or 210 cars per hour, or three per minute.
The store will employ 60 to 90 employees, he said.
City's role questioned
Uciferro also said he met with Holiday Inn manager Tammy Lowry, landowner Nick Hapsis, Mayor Mike Bennett and City Manager Doug Miller regarding the extension of water and sewer to the site.
"Nick [Hapsis] didn't think it was fair that the city was going to make him extend the sewer from a point at Beards Hill…along the frontage of the KFC [restaurant] to a manhole and further down to the connection point," Uciferro said.
"What was verbally agreed to was the city was going to try to fund the installation of this section of the sewer through the frontage of the KFC," he said.
Public Works Director Matt Lapinsky said that was definitely not accurate and that the city is only providing an economic development grant of a "certain dollar threshold" to help extend the water line.
"The city is doing absolutely nothing in relation to that line other than providing an economic development grant," Lapinsky said.
He asked Uciferro and Stellmaker to clarify what they heard, and Uciferro agreed to do that.
Uciferro also said the cost of the grant is about $25,000.
Commission member Lance Hersh said he would guess the cost of that extension would be recovered in about one and a half years from property taxes generated by the restaurant.
Planning and Community Development Director Phyllis Grover praised Chick-fil-A.
"You have great customer service skills," she told Stellmaker. "It's always been a very pleasant experience and I just want to welcome you to Aberdeen."
The Aldi supermarket to be built on Route 40, across from Walmart, also received the commission's approval Wednesday.
Asked if the store might have trouble competing, Aldi real estate director Troy Faulkner said the grocery store is typically cheaper than a Super Walmart and would actually have a competitive advantage.
Aldi will have 20 to 30 employees, and the Aberdeen store will have a different design than the company's other Harford County store in Edgewood store. Faulkner said the Aberdeen store's design is the first such design for Aldi in this region.
"It's about the same size as the Edgewood store but you can see it's a much nicer store aesthetically," he said.
The Aberdeen store will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, Faulkner said.
The Aldi also be next door to a site proposed for a new Royal Farms store and gas station.