Applicant argues proposed Fairfield Chick-fil-A can handle the traffic

Photo of Katrina Koerting
The former Joe’s American Bar & Grill property on the Post Road in Fairfield on Aug. 12. A new Chick-fil-A restaurant is proposed for the property.

The former Joe’s American Bar & Grill property on the Post Road in Fairfield on Aug. 12. A new Chick-fil-A restaurant is proposed for the property.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

FAIRFIELD — The applicants looking to open a Chick-fil-A on Post Road maintain the site can more than handle the amount of cars coming to the location — an issue opponents have repeatedly raised.

The biggest critique of the restaurant opening up at 750 Post Road has been accusations that the traffic estimates used weren’t sufficient or accurate and the Fairfield location could experience the traffic problems other sites, especially Norwalk, have experienced.

“A tremendous amount of care and thought went into this application by a very experienced and skilled team,” John Knuff, the attorney representing the applicant, told the Town Plan and Zoning Commission recently.

Chick-fil-A’s proposed location is the former site of Joe’s American Bar & Grill, which closed nearly two years ago. The property was sold in 2020. It also includes the adjacent Colonial Unisex Hair Cutters barbershop, a family-owned business that has been on Post Road since 1970.

Knuff said the new proposal is to only have Chick-fil-A on the nearly two-acre lot, even though the regulations allow for another restaurant or retail site to go there with it.

He said this is one way the application meets or exceeds the town’s regulations.

Knuff said they observed real traffic counts at nearby locations, including Norwalk and Wallingford, at different points of the day to plan for the Fairfield location. He said the longest drive-thru line they observed at one time was 36 vehicles in Norwalk.

The Fairfield proposal accommodates that many cars, and then some, making it one of the longest drive-thrus for the company. The parking lot also exceeds the minimum required parking by 23 spots, the applicants said.

Knuff said comparing the Fairfield site to others is like comparing night and day because this site is bigger and doesn’t share its location with another establishment.

“We’re confident our site can absorb all of the drive-thru traffic and not bleed out onto the road,” Knuff said, adding it won’t have a bigger impact on the overall road traffic because most people visiting the eatery are already out on the road.

He said they’re also asking the state to change the traffic signal to alleviate the traffic there even more.

Some commission members questioned if the bigger kitchen and building would draw even more people to the Fairfield location than seen at Norwalk.

Another concern was the wait times at the drive thru and how they could affect traffic and the environment due to the exhaust from the idling cars.

Commission members also raised safety concerns about what the drive-thru design means for the servers and bringing food out to cars.

“We believe this is the safest drive-thru we have,” said Clint Mattson, who handles all of the new Chick-fil-A restaurants in the Northeast.

He said he hasn’t heard of anyone being hit in a drive-thru in the more than four years he’s been with the company. He also said the Fairfield location has a number of safety precautions, including striping in the drive-thrus, barriers and signage.

Knuff said Chick-fil-A will return this property to the tax rolls, bring energy back into the area, and support the community as it has in other places.

“Chick-fil-A is a notoriously wonderful corporate client who is going to do wonders for this site if the project is approved,” he said.

The commission will now consider the application and make a decision in the coming weeks.