Opelika planning commission approves new Chili’s Restaurant near Tigertown

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By Laurel Callaway

Opelika Observer

Chili’s Restaurant is coming to Capps Landing.

The Opelika Planning Commission approved the conditional use of property located on Capps Way for the construction of the popular chain restaurant at Tuesday’s meeting. The 4,850 square foot building will accommodate up to 211 patrons and will have street frontage on both Gateway Drive and Capps Way, with the main entrance facing Gateway Drive. The company will employ 25 people.

The commission support, however, did not come without many concerns and requirements for adjustments.

During the Oct. 21 work meeting, the city engineer addressed issues with the points of access into the site. The original proposal by Gulf State Engineering, the firm constructing the Chili’s, contained two separate entrances into the facility. The city’s engineering department recommended that either one entrance be eliminated or both be made into one ways.

The company opted to retain only one entrance located at the southern corner.

However, during the September commission voting session, the commission approved the construction of a Raceway Fuel station across the street with a northern access point for traffic.  The closeness in proximity of both entrances does not meet the minimal spatial distance requirements of 100 feet under the collector street classification.

The engineering department, during the week between the work session and voting session, asked whether Gulf State could possible move the point of access in order to meet the 100 foot requirement.

At the voting session, however, the engineering department proposed a change in the classification from a collector street to a local street. Under a local street classification, the entry into the restaurant lot would not have to be moved.

“Based on the traffic volumes projected, we could describe it as a local street rather than a collector street,” stated the city’s engineer.

Planning Director Jerry Kelly said, “I have concerns even though we are crossing hairs with a way and a street because we have a significant development of the convenience store (across the street).” He asked, “Are we beginning to crowd ourselves on Capps Way?”

The city engineering department said it understood the concerns, yet still recommended the reclassification.  Gulf State engineering assured that trucks making deliveries could easily access the entry point and exit without issue.

In addition to entry access to the restaurant, the commission also raised issue over the amount of natural material being used on the building.

The city requires that at least 50 percent of the front and back be made of natural materials. The proposed building only contained 46 percent natural material in the front and 42 percent in the back.

Commission Chairman Keith Pridgen said although the front part of the building contained slightly less natural material than required, it did not include the patio, the natural wood and the covered area. This, he proposed, would be acceptable and that the commission could allow for a variance.

As for the back of the building, Gulf State is going to incorporate landscaping to camouflage the metal cooler units.

“We just want it to look nice and attractive,” Commissioner Lucinda Cannon encouraged.

The commission also:

– approved preliminary and final plats from subdivisions on two lots on Willis Avenue, two lots on South Uniroyal Road and one lot on Frederick Road

– approved the conditional use of a PUD climate controlled mini warehouses on Society Hill Road

– approved the conditional use of a C-1 relocation of a brewery facility and tasting room on North Railroad Avenue

– amended the zoning ordinance definition for a micro-brewery by adding wine to the existing definition

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