Representatives from Chick-fil-A revealed some more details about a plan to build its largest facility in Pennsylvania on West Airport Road in Manheim Township, including the capacity for three drive-thru lanes. But it suffered a setback in those plans.
After a 90-minute hearing, the township's zoning hearing board approved 3-2 a motion to grant only two aspects of the Chick-fil-A's zoning request and without the most important stipulation — a variance to allow a drive-thru.
The property at 100 W. Airport Road sits in both an industrial zone and an overlay district, which provides an additional layer of standards. The board granted Chick-fil-A permission to operate a restaurant on the site in both the industrial zone and overlay district, but without a drive-thru.
Speakers from Chick-fil-A presented their case for several zoning variances that would provide the necessary space for a three-lane drive-thru that would be able handle 75 cars at once. They stressed the larger property would operate much differently than the location at the Belmont Shopping Center, which has caused congestion headaches on Fruitville Pike.
A Chick-fil-A study found that in one day in September, the line of cars had grown to 55, extending out into the turning lanes on the street — a familiar site for many area motorists.
But two residents and a neighbor to the site, Ephrata National Bank, raised concerns about the effect of a drive-thru business in the area.
“You need to show that the use will not impair the use of the adjacent property,” said Seth Hiller, an attorney representing Ephrata National Bank at the zoning hearing. Chick-fil-A's presentation didn’t do that, he said.
The plan from the Atlanta-based fast-food chain calls for demolishing the former Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea House at 100 W. Airport Road and replacing it with a new Chick-fil-A building.
Justin Thornton, a civil engineering consultant for Chick-fil-A, said the 2.5-acre site at Airport Road and Lititz Pike would use the company’s most recent store designs, which allow faster and more efficient food delivery times, particularly at the drive-thru. A canopy would cover cars in the drive-thru lanes near the store, he said, and the store’s workers would use iPads to take orders and deliver them to cars directly, rather than direct cars to a single pick-up window — the method used at the Fruitville Pike location.
But the zoning board did not approve the variances that would provide the necessary space for such a large drive-thru operation.
Chick-fil-A has 30 days to file an appeal on the decision.
A zoning variance is needed when a characteristic of a proposed building or property doesn’t comply with municipal zoning rules.
According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Lititz Pike at Airport Road averages 20,400 vehicles a day.
The consumer demand at the Fruitville Pike location seemed to catch its owners by surprise. After it opened in 2018, the developer of the shopping center, R.J. Waters & Associates, paid for two different widenings of the driveway that leads to the Chick-fil-A drive-thru in hopes of improving traffic flow.
Hoss’s Steak & Sea House closed in February when the property was sold for $1.6 million to Joe Deerin, a Lancaster real estate developer at Deerin Cos. At the time a spokesman for Hoss’s said the restaurant was closed because of an unsolicited buy offer that was too good to turn down.
Chad Umble contributed reporting to this story.