What does the best Bojangles’ look like?
The Cary Town Council wrestled with that question Thursday night during a public hearing on a new Bojangles’ proposed for N.C. 55 near the Carpenter Historic District.
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Besides fried chicken and biscuits, the fast-food restaurants are known for their orange metal-roof awnings — something that is not in Cary’s color palette of brown, beige and tan.
Years ago, another eatery — Gypsy’s Shiny Diner — drew the council’s ire for its polished metal facade.
The new Bojangles’ only came to the council’s attention because it has a drive-thru. When a business has a drive-thru, council approval is required.
Tri-Arc Food Systems in Raleigh submitted a sketch plan that showed where the 4,700 square-foot restaurant would sit on the property. It lacked many details, which irked some council members.
“I would put this in the category of disappointing uses,” said District A representative Jennifer Robinson. “Can the sketch plan overcome the most disappointing use next to a historic area? I don’t see anything that accomplishes it.”
What’s already there
The stretch of NC 55 where the Bojangles’ is proposed has developed quickly as Cary has grown north toward Durham. It won’t be in the historic district, but across the CSX Rail corridor from it.
The Carpenter Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, now is surrounded with new roads and neighborhoods. It had three general stores, 15 homes and several other commercial and transportation-related buildings near the intersection of Morrisville-Carpenter Road and NC 55.
“I would never, ever, ever select a Bojangles’ to go near a historic area,” Robinson said. “We want to make sure we don’t look terrible on 55.”
The restaurant will be near other businesses, including several self-storage facilities and a new Eagles gas station next door
“They’re both crap,” Robinson said. “They’re so crappy. It seems like the applicant needs to step up their game with the sketch plan and make it more acceptable.”
But council member Don Frantz defended the Bojangles’ proposal.
“It’s pretty unfitting to say this is not in harmony when it is right next to a gas station to the north and storage units to the south,” Frantz said. “I don’t see how you penalize Bojangles’ in this regard.”
Despite her harsh words, Robinson later voted to approve the development plan, sketch and all.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht compared NC 55 to a road in Raleigh that’s been called an eyesore.
“We’re kind of already there,” he said. “It’s the Capital Boulevard of Cary.”
The council approved the sketch plan with a 6-1 vote, so the development can move forward.
The town didn’t have much choice. State law requires town councils to approve developments that meet their zoning requirements, and the Tri-Arc proposal did, said town staff.
Jack Smith of District C cast the only vote against the development plan.
He recalled living in Franklin, Tennessee, when that town began allowing fast-food restaurants to build in its historic area. Still, he conceded there was no way for Cary to stop the Bojangles’.
“I don’t see it as an appropriate use,” he said. “But the damage is done with the gas station. It’s only approved because we let that domino fall.”
The property where the restaurant is going was zoned to allow businesses with drive-thrus in 2010.
“Bojangles’ would not be my first choice but it is better than a lot of others,” said Councilman Ed Yerha. “I would like to say ‘We don’t want to see a Bojangles’ there,’ but I don’t see us being able to say that based on the criteria.”
Tri-Arc did agree to upgrade the buffer requirements. The company will have to plant evergreens in a 30-foot buffer between the property and the railroad tracks, according to the agreement.
“We are pleased the council approved our project and look forward to serving our customers in the Carpenter community,” said Tri-Arc spokesman Tommy Haddock
At-large Councilwoman Lori Bush said allowing the Bojangles’ on NC 55 was the best place for it even if there were objections.
“If you’re going to put it any place, this is the place it is going to go,” Bush said. “The problem we have is that it’s next to a historic district. The damage is aleady done. You might as make it the best Bojangles’ it can be.”