At a meeting this week with the Carroll County Planning Commission regarding a new Chick-fil-A restaurant in Eldersburg, County Commissioner Richard Rothschild commented on the recent controversy surrounding the chain and the political stance of its president and CEO, Dan Cathy, saying, "Government is not here to pick winners or losers in private business."
Cathy has been in the headlines lately for comments opposing same-sex marriage and saying that the restaurant chain supports traditional families. A petition drive is under way at the University of Maryland to oust the restaurant from campus, and mayors in Boston and Chicago have declared the restaurant chain unwelcome.
But Rothschild, who serves as an ex-officio member of the planning commission, said, "Any government official that even considers using their power to prevent a business from opening ... it's inappropriate in America. We don't want to live in that country."
"I welcome you and thank you for choosing Carroll County for business," he told company officials.
The plan for the new Chick-fil-A in Eldersburg, slated for the west side of Route 32 north of Liberty Road, was met with general approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Plans call for a 5,000-square-foot store on a 1.56-acre tract adjacent to Zumbrun Funeral Home. The Eldersburg location would be the chain's third in Carroll. The other two are in Westminster — one in TownMall and the other along Route 140.
While the Planning Commission was not required to take any action — it'll have a final review in a few months — members of the commission recommended a few changes to the plans, most to signage.
The proposed stand-alone sign for the restaurant would stand at 20 feet tall, a height that does not fit in with the surrounding area, the board said. When representatives of the company showed photos of a new restaurant in Harford County that featured a similar sign, commission members chuckled.
With its topiary cow, brick pedestal and running board, the sign was too tall, they said, encouraging the restaurant's representatives to change its height.
"The cow needs to be bigger than the sign," quipped commission member Alec Yeo. "Make it as short as possible."
Concern was also expressed about the restaurant's parking lot. While the plans meet all requirements, officials said the parking lot is tight and could be a problem for vehicles with trailers.
The representatives for Chick-fil-A will take the recommendations back to the company's president, with hopes to return for approval in three months. A tentative schedule has the restaurant opening for business by fall 2013.
The Georgia-based Chick-fil-A company has more than 1,615 locations in 39 states and Washington, D.C. In 2011, annual sales were more than $4.1 billion, according to the company's website.