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Porterdale approves Waffle House rezoning
Former Porterdale city manager Bob Thomson reviews zoning stipulations for construction of Waffle House restaurant with the Porterdale City Council in 2017.

In its first meeting of the new year and one of its lengthier meetings in recent memory, the Porterdale City Council approved the rezoning of a 0.89 acre parcel of land along the Covington Bypass to accommodate the construction of Newton County’s newest Waffle House.

During the meeting, which lasted more than two hours and included a work session, the council voted unanimously, with conditions, to approve the change to the parcel located on the Bypass at State Road 81 from Agricultural General (AG) to Commercial General (CG).

The zoning change vote provided the council members the opportunity to have their concerns about the construction of the restaurant and its impact on the aesthetics of the city and quality of life for its residents addressed in writing.

“It’s being positioned so that there will be a really good buffer between the alley. The grassy area and the tree area will remain,” Porterdale Mayor Arline Chapman said, “It will not impact people who have enjoyed the wooded area behind their homes.”

“Do we have all of that in writing?” Councilwoman Linda Finger asked.

Finger, and other members expressed concern that the buffers, along with aesthetic features including the four-sided brick veneer for the building and awning colors that had reportedly been agreed to by Waffle House, had not been specifically addressed on the site survey they saw at the meeting.

It was suggested that the rezoning could be approved without stipulations for buffers and architectural concerns, with the understanding that those issues could be addressed at a later date.  

Council members disagreed with that approach. There was concern that approving the zoning change without actually specifying how the property would be used and what it would look like could prove problematic later.  

“If we vote tonight to rezone it, it’s rezoned. We don’t have architectural control over what someone decides to build,” Councilman Lowell Chambers said.“He can come back and say, ‘I’m going to build a gas station there’ if we just rezone it.”

There was also discussion of sending the request back to the Planning and Zoning committee to have any concerns addressed. The council, however, was working against the 60-day window for approving the zoning request. Had the request, which was submitted Nov. 21, 2016, not been approved or denied within the 60-day window, it would have been deemed approved, according to City Attorney Tim Chambers.             .

Another suggestion was to stretch the time by denying the request and having Waffle House reapply. Chapman strongly disagreed with that approach.

“We are trying to play hardball with a major national company,” she said, “They will tell us what we can do with that land before this is over with. We don’t have the upper hand. I’m not saying that we need to capitulate to them, but I’m saying that we need to work it out. We’ve got to work with them.”

Members agreed and compiled a list of conditions to be included in the language for rezoning the parcel.

- The use of the property shall exclusively be Waffle House Restaurant
- The building shall be four-sided red brick
The awnings and canopies shall be one of the following colors: grey, red, brown and/or rust
A pedestal sign shall be used at the road to match the building
Parking shall have internal circulation with the ability to connect to future, adjacent properties
Twenty-five-foot buffers on adjoining residential properties with 12-15 foot mixed evergreens, excluding Leyland Cypress trees
A detention/retention pond to be in the rear of the building

Porterdale City Manager Bob Thomson said Thursday that he is not anticipating Waffle House will have any problems with the conditions attached to the rezoning approval. Thomson also said an arborist, working through the city, will be working with Waffle House to pick out the appropriate evergreens to be planted in the buffers.