A new burger restaurant may come to Thompson Bridge Road, but Green Street Circle residents are fighting it.
Gary and Brenda Haynes, who own and operate Yonah Burger eateries in Cleveland and Dahlonega, want to start a third business in the empty building at 1195 Thompson Bridge Road, which has previously served as a retail phone store, dental lab and medical billing office.
The restaurant would operate 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It would use an entrance and exit on Thompson Bridge Road and an exit on Green Street Circle.
The city's planning and appeals board heard the proposal on Oct. 12, and several residents expressed concerns about neighborhood safety, an increase in traffic and the drive-through loudspeaker.
The board approved the request unanimously but added four conditions - the speaker must face away from residential areas, a natural buffer of trees and plants must be added behind the restaurant, the exit onto Green Street Circle must be a left-turn only and the new owners must install a concrete median at the exit to enforce the left turn.
"I've researched drive-through businesses in the U.S. and about 60 to 80 percent of fast food business goes through the drive-through. Gary Haynes told me about 80 percent of the business at the Dahlonega restaurant is through the drive through," Rusty Ligon, director of the Community Development Department, said as he pointed out the driveway on a large map. "The overwhelming majority of people will have to exit on Thompson Bridge."
The 6-inch median should discourage drivers from turning onto Green Street Circle, Ligon said.
"It would be dangerous to turn right because they would have to come out onto the road and go back up the hill," he said. "Someone may try it once, but I bet you'd think twice before trying again."
Ligon and Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan attended a neighborhood meeting held by concerned residents on Monday night to hear complaints. Ligon said he would research decibel levels for the drive-through speaker. Dunagan asked city traffic engineer Dee Taylor to monitor the traffic on Green Street Circle before council members make a final decision.
"I can set a traffic camera today and have a full Friday count, which is our highest weekday for traffic," Taylor said. "I'll pull it down Monday and have the results to you Monday afternoon before you consider the proposal Tuesday."
The restaurant would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"Our concept is based on fresh, never frozen ingredients. For example, our hamburger meat and sausage is delivered to both locations four days a week and we get fresh eggs delivered every three days. We homemake our cat-head biscuits each morning and we plan to add handcut french fries to all locations in the immediate future," Gary Haynes wrote in a letter to the planning board. "We will run a polished, clean and efficient establishment that we believe people will be proud to have in their community."
Ligon reminded the council that the Hayneses must still undergo several permit phases before opening the restaurant. During these phases, the property owners could be required to repave the parking lot, submit plans for interior and exterior changes to the building and limit the noise level of the drive-through speaker.
"What you've done in the planning board meeting is force the business to be neighborhood-friendly," said council member Myrtle Figueras. "If the drivers can't turn anywhere but left, the restaurant can't hurt the neighbors there. You've made every effort so far to protect the residents, and I think the conditions should work."