Citizens, O’Leary differ over McDonald’s CUP process

Neighbors’ concerns heard, responded to, councilman says

Kevin O'Leary

Kevin O’Leary

By Gloria Lloyd

A group of Concord residents upset over a McDonald’s planned next to their neighborhood at Tesson Ferry and Butler Hill roads believe they have not had a voice in the process leading to the potential approval of the project, but new County Councilman Kevin O’Leary, D-Oakville, said he listened to every concern.

When residents speaking against the project at the April 28 council meeting asked if it was already approved, they were told by a county official that it was a done deal. However, 6th District Councilman O’Leary requested at the same meeting that the legislation for a conditional-use permit, or CUP, for the 24-hour McDonald’s be received and filed.

Under the county zoning ordinance, the council has 15 days to exercise its power of review. Otherwise, the CUP is approved.

The county Planning Commission initially held off on a recommendation for the CUP that would allow the project in March. At that time, the 6th District had no representative on the council, but the panel unanimously recommended approval April 6. O’Leary was sworn into office April 21, after defeating Tony Pousosa and Cindy Redburn April 7.

McDonald’s will close its current location at 13250 Tesson Ferry Road to move to the new 24-hour location at 13047 Tesson Ferry Road. Construction at the site has already begun, although the 15-day time limit on the CUP is not up until next week.

Audjill Drive resident Doug Pickard said a group of roughly 15 residents has tried unsuccessfully to meet with O’Leary or his legislative assistant, and then O’Leary’s office told them it was a done deal.

“I just don’t understand how this could have passed without our say, it’s illegal, I believe it is, and I believe, whether you put me in jail or not, somebody or everybody got paid off,” resident Melissa Tobias said at the April 28 council meeting. “This is just not right.”

O’Leary said in a statement that the project went through “rigorous” steps before it got to the council and “was thoroughly reviewed and recommended by planners, experts, and the general public. Just to be sure, we took the extra step of meeting for several hours with the Department of Planning as well as many of the neighbors and citizens who might be affected by the restaurant’s construction … We listened and responded promptly to every concerned citizen who contacted our office, and took every step to ensure that the job growth the McDonald’s creates is balanced by concern for neighborhoods in the area.”

When the neighbors attended last week’s council meeting en masse to speak against the project, they said that a police officer took a message to O’Leary, who sent back a note that he had an event to attend so he could not meet with them right then, but to call the next morning, Pickard said.

In the week since, the neighbors have received no response from “six or eight” phone calls, Pickard said.

“When we ask questions, it’s like they’re trying to run away from it,” Pickard told the Call.

Griffin Road resident Cindy Knittig listed her concerns with the fast-food restaurant at that site to the council last week and added, “This is where I wanted to ask that you vote against this McDonald’s, but now I’m saying shame on you for putting this through and not even letting us to express our opinions, and we are the ones that are going to be affected by this.”

Her husband, Ray Knittig, outlined some of the same concerns to the council that he originally did in the public hearing held by the Planning Commission, including that the developer of the Petro Mart next door to the McDonald’s site had promised site-proof fencing and other concessions to neighbors before the gas station was built.

The developer then never returned neighbors’ calls when they called with concerns about fencing and lighting, he said.

“I don’t understand or accept that a business is allowed to push established landowners and taxpayers around just to maximize their profits,” Ray Knittig said.