Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s can set up shop near Prince George’s Plaza, but they can’t have a drive-through, according to recent court decisions.
In both the Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s cases, the Prince George’s County Planning Board had approved the fast food restaurants under the condition that the drive-through be removed from the plans, as zoning restrictions for the area around the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station do not allow for freestanding restaurants with a drive-through within a half-mile radius.
Hyattsville resident Lynn Cotturo, who said she does not own a car, said she is disappointed Hyattsville has singled out fast-food restaurants.
“Banks have drive-throughs, CVS has a drive-through. It’s East-West Highway, not a neighborhood road,” Cotturo said. “Hyattsville is getting bigger and bigger, and traffic is part of that.”
Hyattsville recently took the Prince George’s County Council to court over the issue.
In the McDonald’s case, the County Council, which is referred to as the District Council in zoning matters, overrode the Planning Board’s decision, and approved it with the drive-through. In the Chick-Fil-A case, the council sent it back to the Planning Board with instructions the drive-through be given further consideration.
In her June 24 ruling, Circuit Court Judge Julia B. Weatherly reversed the council’s decision, finding it only had authority to overrule the Planning Board if it found the board’s decision to be “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, or illegal.”
On July 17, the Planning Board sent the Chick-fil-A case back to the County Council without reopening the case after Debra Borden, general counsel for Maryland National Capital Park and Planning, told the Planning Board that given recent court rulings, the board was neither required nor authorized to revisit its earlier decision.
Hyattsville Councilman Patrick Paschall (Ward 3), who attended the meeting, said he prepared to present a petition with over 300 signatures requesting the Planning Board not approve the drive-through.
Paschall said the city’s opposition to the drive through is not just about increased traffic on East-West Highway, but about the sheer volume.
“Our opposition has been over their wanting to put a drive-through in to process cars as fast as possible, so people can zoom in and out,” Paschall said. “That goes against the whole purpose of the [Transit Development Overlay Zone], which is to make the area around the Metro as pedestrian-friendly as possible.”
Paschall said the city would support either restaurant without the drive-through, but whether either fast-food chain will want to build on East-West Highway without it is unclear.
Asked whether the McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A projects would still move forward with revised plans, Daniel F. Lynch III, the attorney representing both projects, said he could not comment at this time.
Cotturo said she was concerned the situation makes the city look anti-business.
“Speaking as a lifelong resident of Prince George’s County, we can’t complain that business doesn’t come here if we keep putting up roadblocks,” Cotturo said.