NEW ALBANY — Just after noon Tuesday, the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-A zigs and zags through the parking lot off State Street in New Albany as hungry motorists await their opportunity to place an order at the popular fast food chain.
Earlier that day, a property manager representing businesses near the restaurant said that while she’s happy for Chick-fil-A’s success, the volume of vehicles waiting in line has created parking issues for customers attempting to frequent other establishments.
“The parking lot is just a nightmare with three entrances into the building,” said Sonya Smith, director of property management for Horizon Commercial Realty.
She manages the properties at 2221 State St., which include Feeders Supply. The building itself is owned by a person who resides in California.
Smith appeared before the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety during a virtual meeting. One suggestion she has for alleviating the traffic jam is changing one of the access ways into the commercial site to an exit-only. She specifically recommended converting the ingress-egress accessible by the roadway that leads to The Home Depot.
There’s also a direct route to the shopping center from State Street, and it can be accessed via the Target entrance, which is also off State Street.
With fewer entrances, perhaps there will be some traffic calming and customers attempting to access the adjoining businesses near Chick-fil-A will have an easier time navigating the parking lot, Smith said.
For Smith, the good news was that multiple city officials agreed with her assessment of the situation. But the bad news is that the city likely can’t do much about it.
“This is very much a private property matter,” City Engineer Larry Summers said.
He acknowledged there’s “an issue at play here” because traffic flow at the restaurant cuts off parking access.
Chick-fil-A is not open for dine-in. Warren Nash, president of the board of works, said the traffic “was bad before they closed” the dining room.
The board took the matter under advisement and Summers plans to further examine the issue, though options may be limited. He said he will study whether the parking lot jam is having any effect on public streets.
“If there’s an impediment to traffic on State Street, then I have a lot more latitude in being able to step up and make changes that are required at that location,” Summers said.
Smith asked, but did not receive an official response, about hiring private traffic control and closing an entrance without approval from a public body.
The local franchise manager at Chick-fil-A said Tuesday that efforts are ongoing to remedy the parking situation, either at that location or at a new property. He referred additional questions to Chick-fil-A’s corporate office. A message left Tuesday afternoon wasn’t returned.
Smith authored multiple emails to city and county officials over the past week about the parking issue.
In one email exchange, New Albany Plan Commission Director Scott Wood asked Smith if she had addressed the issue with Chick-fil-A.
Smith said that she had, and restaurant management had proposed adding a short section with a double lane.
“That may have offered a little bit of relief, but the owner would not give up the parking spaces to allow that to happen,” Smith said in the email.