Plans to build a Golden Corral restaurant at North DeKalb Mall encountered a slight delay from the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday. The applicants have been given 30 days to revise their application due to an issue with a potential sign on the property.
William Matthews, representing engineers and land planners Frank Miller Associates, has been working with Golden Corral and the owners of North DeKalb Mall to seek a variety of required zoning changes. His company has spent about three months working with Hendon Properties and Golden Corral in creating the project plan.
The proposed restaurant would be located in the mall's parking lot that is rarely used except for the occasional carnival or Christmas tree sale. Matthews said that the owners of the Chick-fil-A and Checkers right next to the site have contacted him to show support for the project.
“Unfortunately, we would not be able to bring this development onto this parcel without the concessions that we have outlined here in our application,” he said.
These changes include very technical, but necessary, adjustments regarding setback lengths, parking and signage. One change to setback rules was deemed so necessary that “the site becomes unbuildable for us,” according to Matthews, if the change is not allowed.
The proposed restaurant would be about 12,500 square feet, requiring 167 parking spots with about half of them on site. Also, the project calls for three signs on the building instead of the limit of two. They needed a variance on the parking lot coverage for the site as well. It is currently at 88 percent, but the project would reduce it to 82 percent, two points above the allowable limit.
A problem arose when board chair Bonnie Jackson asked Matthews about what she called the “obnoxious little sign parcel,” a large black, red and purple sign that advertises the AMC movie theater. She wondered if it would be considered part of the Golden Corral property, but it would not.
“Because of [the mall’s] lease agreements with the AMC theaters, they cannot alter or move that sign,” Matthews said. “We’ve had to step in here and figure out how to deal with this issue. The only thing we can do is carve that out of the site… and leave it in the mall ownership.”
Jackson noted that the AMC sign should not technically be allowed, but it was granted a legal exception under an older sign ordinance in 1996.
“I just wish that sign could go away,” she said.
“I begged them,” Matthews said, later referring to the sign as a “monolith.” “Hendon said they have no plans to move the sign.”
He said their hands were tied because of the lease agreements.
Board member Liz Beyer discussed the current uses of the lot.
“Other than the fact that the carnivals will have to go find another place, that is the only use I have ever, ever seen [of the lot], even in the height of Christmas shopping,” she said.
Jackson noted a request to build a ground sign that would be 192 square feet, instead of the allowable 160 square feet, and asked Matthews why it needed to be so much bigger. Matthews said that the size was Golden Corral’s preference.
However, Jackson immediately denied that particular request.
“Preferences don’t fly, I’m sorry,” she said. She was worried that other properties in the area would see Golden Corral’s ground sign exception and start trying to get their own similar exceptions.
Board members appeared ready to approve the full application, except for the ground sign request, when a problem was discovered.
The AMC sign, measuring 35 feet high and 277 square feet, takes up more than half of the maximum 450 square feet of signage allowed on the property. This means that Golden Corral might not be able to have a ground sign at all.
Beyer recommended a 30-day deferral for the companies to work together and double-check everything related to the property. The only other option was to withdraw the proposal and start over again, but Matthews said his company was in no great hurry and would rather take the deferral.
The next zoning board meeting is July 13.