The latest attempt by the Friends of Abingdon group to throw a monkey wrench into development of The Meadows of Abingdon might best be described as downright silly — if it weren’t such a serious matter.
This group originally tried its best to stop the development off Interstate 81’s Exit 17 that will include a new Food City and other retail outlets, along with a town-owned sports complex.
Now five members of this self-serving group of people, who apparently subscribe to the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) theory of progress, seek to throw their dubious political muscle against a planned business tenant of The Meadows, a Pal’s Sudden Service fast-food drive-thru.
The group makes the ridiculous claim that the teal blue exterior color of the small Pal’s building would not coordinate with other structures in the development and would not follow the town’s zoning codes.
So the Friends of Abingdon group has filed an appeal to overturn the Abingdon Planning Commission’s May 20 approval of the standard design of the chain’s restaurants, popular for their burgers, hot dogs, fries and iced tea.
“The whole [appeal] is centered around whether it’s going to be teal,” Abingdon Town Manager Jimmy Morani told the Bristol Herald Courier last week for a story by reporter Joe Tennis.
Now, that appeal is threatening Pal’s decision to open its first Abingdon location.
“Should the Town of Abingdon rescind the previously approved certificate, we will be forced to choose not to construct a restaurant at the location,” Pal’s Chief Executive Officer Thom Crosby said in a statement released last week.
A decision to back out of its commitment to The Meadows would cost the area about 60 jobs and, according to Morani, an estimated $200,000 to $220,000 in sales tax revenue annually for the town.
“That is approximately one-third of the annual debt service for the sports complex,” the town manager said.
The color and design are what Crosby called “important elements of the Pal’s brand,” including depictions of a hot dog, hamburger, “Frenchie Fries” and a “Big Tea” on the outside of the brand’s trademark teal building.
At Thursday’s work session, the Town Council agreed to consider the appeal at its Monday [July 1] meeting.
“I don’t know how the rest of the council feels, but I feel we should hear the appeal as soon as possible, because we’ve been accused of not being business-friendly,” Mayor Wayne Craig said during the work session.
“Council will hear this as an appellate body, essentially,” said Cameron Bell, the town’s acting legal counsel. “There will be a standard review … to look at the Planning Commission’s decision.”
The commission approved the design by a 4-1 vote, with only member Wayne Austin opposing.
“There was extensive discussion at the Planning Commission level about the design,” Bell said. “The issue seems to be primarily in the appeal of the color of the building itself.”
The Abingdon Sports Complex, estimated to cost about $7 million, is being built by the town and is a key component of The Meadows, according to the Herald Courier story. Besides anchor Food City, tenants of The Meadows commercial side will include Eastman Credit Union, Holiday Inn Express and other restaurants, in addition to Pal’s.
Friends of Abingdon was formed in opposition to development of The Meadows and in 2016 filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the project. But the suit was eventually dismissed, and the project was allowed to move forward.
A ridiculous move such as this one — objecting to an element of The Meadows project over the color of a small outbuilding — smacks of petty obstructionism and should be resoundingly rejected by the Town Council.
It’s time to tell the Friends of Abingdon: “Enough is enough.”