ABINGDON, Va. — Five members of a citizens group are appealing approval of a Pal’s Sudden Service at The Meadows in Abingdon because they don’t like the signature teal color and design of the drive-thru, leading Pal’s CEO to threaten to pull out if the original plans are not honored.
On Wednesday, members of the Friends of Abingdon filed an appeal with the town manager of the Abingdon Planning Commission’s May 20 approval of the project, saying the restaurant’s design doesn’t comply with the town’s zoning code.
“The whole thing is centered around whether it’s going to be teal,” said Town Manager Jimmy Morani.
Pal’s CEO Thom Crosby issued a written statement later Wednesday that states: “We have received a Certificate of Appropriateness of our standard building design of a Pal’s restaurant at The Meadows. The design features our teal blue color and unique architecture of classic menu items on the structure.”
The color and design are what Crosby calls “important elements of the Pal’s brand,” including a hot dog, a hamburger, Frenchie Fries and a Big Tea.
“Should the Town of Abingdon rescind the previously approved certificate, we will be forced to choose not to construct a restaurant at the location,” Crosby said.
According to a release from Pal’s last month, the Abingdon restaurant could create about 60 jobs.
“Pal’s is estimated to generate $200,000 to $220,000 sales tax revenue annually for the town,” Morani said. “That is approximately one third of the annual debt service for the sports complex.”
The Abingdon Sports Complex, estimated to cost about $7 million, is being built by the town and is a key component of The Meadows at Exit 17, which is now being developed with a Food City, Eastman Credit Union, Holiday Inn Express and other restaurants in addition to Pal’s.
“We need the development,” Morani said. “The development needs the sports complex.”
The Friends of Abingdon members state in the appeal: “First and foremost we wish to state that this is NOT an attempt to keep Pal’s out of Abingdon. And it does NOT, in any way, suggest that our membership has anything against having a Pal’s in Abingdon. Pal’s is a well-respected, reputable company that would be an asset to Abingdon and generate tax revenue.”
The Friends of Abingdon formed in opposition to development of The Meadows project. In 2016, the group filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the project, but it was dismissed.
The group’s appeal is now subject to a public hearing, the town manager said. The appeal will likely be considered by the Town Council at its first regular meeting in August because the July meeting would not meet the public notice requirements of 21 days, he added.
In the appeal, members of the citizens group said the building’s color and design wouldn’t comply with the Abingdon zoning ordinance.
“The ‘teal’ blue color and general style of the building are not ‘coordinated’ with other buildings within the development,” as required by the zoning ordinance, states the letter, which is signed by Friends members Nan Harman, Joe LeVine, Donna LeVine, Stephen C. Jett and Dr. James Moore.
But Morani said there’s no mention of specific colors in the town code.
He added that there are “some references to conformity, which some of the opponents are mentioning or bringing up.”
The larger issue, according to Morani, is whether The Meadows lies in Abingdon’s Historic District Entrance Corridor Overlay District.
The outline of that district is still being studied and defined by both the Town Council and the Planning Commission and is subject to what is considered an arterial entrance to the town, as defined by the Virginia Department of Transportation, Morani said.
“There’s a question as to whether the town has the authority to regulate these entrance corridors, if they are not an arterial road,” Morani said. “The bottom line is, we have many streets on there that are not arterial roads.”
Pal’s first restaurant in Abingdon could spur other development, the town manager said.
“If the Pal’s locates in Abingdon, a domino effect could take place. Others would locate in that same development as well,” he said.
Last month, the town’s director of planning and zoning, Jason Boswell, said Pal’s next step will be to submit the site plan to include setback requirements, erosion and sediment control plan, registered design professional drawings of the proposed structure, along with any required permits, electrical, mechanical and plumbing.
On Wednesday, Boswell said the appeal “doesn’t stop Pal’s from designing the building and moving forward with their plans. It doesn’t stop them from building that building. It could potentially stop them from using their trademark color.”